All 11 hospitals in New York City (NYC) will now serve plant-based meals by default.
The move came after diet change-focused nonprofit The Better Food Foundation partnered with New York City Health + Hospitals and the Mayor’s Office. The foundation aims to aid healthcare organizations in improving health outcomes, cutting carbon emissions, and decreasing food costs.
The hospital serves three million meals for lunch and dinner each year. While meat options will still be available to those who want them, the hospitals are offering plant-based dishes for every meal.
The initiative seems to have got off to a successful start, as around 60 percent of patients have chosen the vegan dishes. What’s more, 95 percent of them said they were satisfied with their choice. Only one percent of the patients identified as vegetarian or vegan.
“While NYC is beckoning in an exciting future, it’s also returning to its people’s roots. Plant-based eating has been an integral part of food cultures and religions throughout history,” a spokesperson for The Better Food Foundation said in a statement.
“In culturally diverse NYC, centering inclusive food choices on the menu is even more important.”
The spokesperson added that people of color are “most likely” to be lactose intolerant and develop diabetes and heart disease. They continued: “Access to healthy plant-based foods through public institutions like hospitals and schools isn’t just a health issue; it’s a social justice issue.”
Is New York moving away from meat?
In January of this year, Eric Adams became the 110th mayor of New York City. He gave up eating meat for health reasons, and has previously described himself as an “imperfect vegan.”
Adams is also an outspoken advocate for plant-based diets. In an interview with the Guardian in February, he nodded to the idea of shaking up the food system.
“We feed 1.1 million New Yorkers every day at school, people in hospitals, correction facilities, senior centers,” he said. “How about giving them all healthy food?”
Since he became mayor, the city has brought in “Plant-Powered Fridays” in schools, introduced fresh produce into the nation’s only municipal emergency food system, and expanded Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Clinics to public hospitals.
Speaking about the new hospital plant-based meals initiative, Adams said: “This transformative program is already changing lives, empowering patients to take control of their own health and further cementing New York City as a leader in preventive medicine.”
Campaigns to serve vegan food in hospitals
Outside of New York, healthcare professionals are also campaigning for more plant-based meals in hospitals.
Earlier this year, a group of doctors wrote an open letter to NHS Scotland urging them to serve patients more plant-based foods.
The letter compared serving meat to “distributing cigarettes in the pulmonary-care unit.”
It added: “Switching to 100 percent vegan menus … would help NHS Scotland improve patient recovery, reduce costs, prevent animal suffering, and meet its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions.”
The huge costs of meat
As well as resulting in the deaths of billions of animals a year, meat is also a leading cause of a number of major human health concerns.
Processed pig meat (like bacon, ham, and salami) is classified as a group one carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
Red meat is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. And dairy has been linked to an increased risk of illnesses like prostate cancer.