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Mayor Adams Unveils Food Education Roadmap to Promote Healthier School Communities Across New York City

June 6, 2023

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Roadmap Provides Comprehensive Approach to Food Education, Ensuring Students Have Tools and Knowledge to Lead Healthy Lifestyles 

Builds on Transformative Steps Mayor Adams Has Taken to Improve Student Health, Including Plant-Powered Fridays and Expansion of Cafeteria Enhancement Experience

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chancellor David C. Banks, and Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) Executive Director Kate MacKenzie today unveiled “Prioritizing Food Education in Our Public Schools: A Path to Developing a Healthy Next Generation” — a comprehensive roadmap to improving food education in New York City’s public school system. The report identifies specific goals, strategies, and key performance indicators that will ensure students across the city learn healthy eating habits, and how each component of our food system interacts with the climate, economy, and local community.

“New York City is leading the way in healthy food, eating, and lifestyles — and I am proud to announce the next step in our journey: New York City’s first ever food education roadmap,” said Mayor Adams. “I know the power of healthy eating firsthand: Switching to a plant-based diet reversed the effects of my type 2 diabetes and saved my eyesight. With this roadmap, we’re going to teach our children how to eat better — building healthier schools, healthier communities, and a healthier city for all New Yorkers.”

“New York City public schools are national leaders in public education, including and especially in nutrition and meal services. We are proud of the work we’ve done so far to expand options for our young people, and I am thrilled to be embarking on this next step to further help educate students on healthy eating habits that they will take with them throughout their lives,” said DOE Chancellor Banks. “I’m grateful to Mayor Adams for prioritizing this work to ensure a healthier future for our communities.”

“Food education throughout a child’s career in New York City’s public schools is essential,” said MOFP Executive Director MacKenzie. “Through comprehensive food education, students can build an understanding of food’s role in our many cultures, our relationships, our history, and our environment. This knowledge can empower our children to make healthy choices and achieve success inside the classroom and beyond. With the release of this roadmap, this administration is deepening its commitment to uplifting the health and wellbeing of all our students.”

“Beyond nutrition education, New York City public schools are already taking actionable steps towards sustainability and cultural responsiveness in our meal programs,” said DOE Office of Food and Nutrition Services Senior Executive Director Chris Tricarico. “This roadmap verbalizes these important commitments, and will help guide us towards a greener, healthier, and more responsive tomorrow. Our Office of Food and Nutrition Services is excited to continue to work alongside our agency partners on this important effort.”

The report released today highlights the critical importance of food education in building lifelong healthy habits, and helping students become better learners. Healthy eating habits are associated with a myriad of health benefits and reduce the risk of developing chronic diet-related diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. They are also associated with higher cognitive functioning, reduced absenteeism, improved mood, and stronger academic performance.
The report identifies three goals for improving food education across all New York City public schools:

  • Helping students build knowledge about healthy eating and wellness;
  • Providing greater access to healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate meals in schools; and
  • Empowering members of school communities, including parents, educators, food service workers, and administrators, to be wellness ambassadors.

The report outlines nine strategies to achieve these goals, as well as 30 key performance indicators to track ongoing progress. These strategies include developing a “Food Education Guidebook” to inform principal decisions on programming, expanding alternative meal options, including halal kitchens, prioritizing capital improvements to school kitchens and cafeterias, and more.

“Building healthy eating habits early is essential for our student’s development and making them better learners,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler. “I’m pleased to support this initiative to raise nutritional awareness among young New Yorkers and our school communities.”

Eating healthy foods and getting proper nutrition is essential to improving a student’s academic performance, leading to fewer absences, increasing thinking skills and bettering behavior,” said New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. “It’s important that we implement these healthy eating habits early so they can become a lifestyle that continues into adulthood. I commend the mayor and the DOE for outlining important goals for expanding and advancing food education across all New York City public schools.” 

“The announcement of the comprehensive food education roadmap is a significant step towards promoting healthier eating habits and empowering our students in New York City. By providing students with the tools and knowledge they need to lead healthy lifestyles, we are not only improving their physical well-being but also fostering better learning outcomes,” said New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda. “Healthy eating habits have far-reaching benefits, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to enhancing cognitive functioning and academic performance. This roadmap, with its clear goals, strategies, and performance indicators, will ensure that our public schools prioritize food education, offer nutritious meals, and create a supportive environment for wellness. I commend Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and the Mayor's Office of Food Policy for their transformative efforts to improve the health of our school communities."  

“Every child deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy lifestyle, beginning with the food they consume,” said New York State Senator Robert Jackson. “I commend the city for introducing a comprehensive food education roadmap that empowers students with the necessary tools and knowledge to make healthier choices. By investing in their future well-being, New York City is fostering stronger and healthier school communities." 

“I commend Mayor Adams on the release of this invaluable report that will help the people of our city eat better and live healthier lives,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “The mayor already introduced plant-based food to our cafeterias, hospitals, and public consciousness. Today’s report on prioritizing food education takes the next step by helping our schools implement and promote the plant-based diet. It is well-established that a healthy, plant-based diet reverses and prevents diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart disease. It is time to bring these benefits to our children. Like the mayor, I have adopted the plant-based diet myself and am proud to be a partner at the state level where I have introduced legislation to bring plant-based options to public schools statewide.” 

“Healthy food habits start well before we sit at the table,” said New York State Assembly Member Brian A. Cunningham. “As a member of the Assembly's Agriculture Committee, it's critically important that our youngest New Yorkers have access to nourishing, locally grown produce and information on healthy eating habits. I applaud the mayor's commitment to prioritize food education; because a healthy body ensures a healthy mind.”

“Today's exciting announcement by Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks establishing a Food Education Roadmap to promote healthier schools will help to ensure that our children have the knowledge they need to lead measurably healthier lives,” said New York State Assemblymember John Zaccaro Jr. “The Bronx has among the highest rates of diabetes in New York state, and I am thrilled to see the mayor and chancellor diligently working to ensure that better health is prioritized as an essential element of the educational process." 

“Many public school students rely on provided lunches as their main meal and nutrition, so our schools should feed a positive relationship with food,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. “This roadmap will outline how to achieve a healthy balance between academic success and food. Chancellor Banks, Mayor Adams, and Office of Food Policy Director Kate MacKenzie are charting a path toward providing future generations of public-school students with the necessary tools to reduce diet-related chronic illnesses, match food with the rich cultural diversity of our student body and boost academic performance across all five boroughs.”

“I am excited to see that Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and Director MacKenzie are taking a comprehensive approach to reforming how we teach New York City kids about food, health, and wellness,” said New York City Councilmember Amanda Farías. “This school year, I joined a fourth-grade class to see food equity and policy work in action at local Public School 69x, where students learned a passion for food equity and the meaning of community wellness. Bronx students and families have voiced concerns on the quality of food and food education in our public school system and have been working hard to no longer be the unhealthiest county in New York State. Prioritizing this initiative means prioritizing communities like Council District 18. I look forward to seeing this rollout in our Bronx schools and working with the administration on seeing its success.” 

“I could not be more excited to support this critical initiative, which will have a lasting positive impact on our kids' education, health, and wellness. This food education roadmap is comprehensive and culturally sensitive, and it is yet another important step this administration has taken to improve healthy eating habits,” said New York City Councilmember Shaun Abreu. “No kid should go hungry or without nutritious meals. Healthy food is the essential energy kids need to learn, play, explore, and find success in the world. This plan is not only great for our environment, but imperative to the physical and mental prosperity of our youth.”

“Developing a food roadmap for schools is crucial in promoting healthy eating habits and creating strong, healthy communities. With its implementation, we can ensure students have access to nutrient-dense meals, empowering them to make beneficial choices that positively impact their overall health and well-being,” said New York City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez. “By encouraging community engagement and collaboration, a food roadmap can foster a sense of shared responsibility and commitment toward creating a healthier future for all.” 

Since taking office, Mayor Adams has taken bold and transformative steps to create healthier school communities and set students up for success. Last year, he introduced Plant Powered Fridays in all public schools. He also announced the launch of the Chefs Council, which develops recipes of scratch-cooked, plant-based, culturally relevant recipes and provides hands-on training for DOE Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) workers. The mayor also expanded halal kitchens so that 87 public schools across the city are now certified to serve halal meals. 

In the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Executive Budget, Mayor Adams proposed $50 million in funding to expand the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience, transforming more than 80 school cafeterias into warm and welcoming spaces for students to enjoy nutritious meals. Further, in the FY24 Executive Budget, Mayor Adams proposed $5.5 million for culinary training for school food service workers, as well as $1 million in funding to integrate food education into school curriculums through core courses, hands-on learning, and afterschool programming.

“Bronx Health REACH is excited about the Food Education Roadmap that will enable all students across the city to receive food and nutrition education,” said Charmaine Ruddock, director, Bronx Health Reach. “This is an important step towards ensuring nutrition education is equitably provided across the city, establishing healthy eating habits among children. The impact of this will go a long way towards addressing diet-related health disparities which disproportionately impact children in the Bronx.”

“Finally, an administration that’s declaring food education a priority, and asking New York City to lead the way,” said Jill Santopietro, founder, The Children’s Food Lab; and member, Food Ed Hub. “The obesity epidemic is the elephant in the room. We all know that educating young people on how to nourish their bodies is a gift of well-being that lasts a lifetime.”

“As an organization committed to increasing access to healthy food through direct food relief, education, and policy, we want to express our gratitude to the mayor for his unwavering commitment and efforts in ensuring the health and well-being of our students,” said Eloísa Trinidad, executive director, Chilis on Wheels. “The nutrition education roadmap the mayor has put in place will empower students to make informed, healthy choices and involve the community, which is crucial for long-term and sustainable change. The administration's efforts are vital in establishing a more robust culture around healthy, culturally diverse food and guaranteeing our students equal opportunities for success. We look forward to the possibilities for hands-on learning and food literacy this initiative will provide our students, enabling them to take charge of their well-being and succeed in school.”

“Mayor Adams is expertly showing how the power of public office can effect real change, and we are honored to partner with him to help create this change,” said Amie Hamlin, Executive Director, Coalition for Healthy School Food. “Our nutrition education programs are aligned with his ‘Eat a Whole Lot More Plants’ campaign. The mayor’s plan for nutrition education in schools will encourage students to eat more plant-based foods, which are readily available in all New York City schools on Plant-Powered Fridays and every day of the week.”

“Quality food and nutrition education supports learning and equips children and families with the knowledge and skills they need to adopt lifelong healthy habits,” said Andrew Barrett, director, Food Ed Hub, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University. “The Food Ed Coalition is excited to see the release of this comprehensive roadmap for food education, and the Adams administration’s continued commitment to the health and well-being of New York City students and their families. We look forward to working together to ensure that all New York City students have quality food and nutrition education and sustainably produced, culturally responsive, healthy school food.”

“We are thrilled about this important step forward for the city,” said Jennifer Cadenhead, research assistant professor and executive director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University. “As host of the Food Ed Hub, a coalition of food and nutrition organizations providing services to New York City public schools, the Tish Center supports evidence-based, behaviorally focused nutrition education tied to academic standards as a key component of whole-body wellness and increased academic achievement for our developing children. Our program in nutrition, among the firsts in the nation, has been advocating for nutrition education in schools for decades, and the Tisch Food Center has supported this type of policy for many years. We applaud the visionary actions of this administration.”

“Common Threads applauds the city, mayor and DOE for prioritizing the health of our communities and recognizing the crucial role schools play in fostering a wellness culture among students, caregivers, and educators,” said Linda Novick O'Keefe, chief executive officer, Common Threads. “Early, repeated exposure to culturally responsive nutrition education and cooking boosts children’s knowledge and skills to identify, select, and prepare nutritious meals. Common Threads' programs nurture students' understanding of the connection between diet and disease, cultivate lifelong healthy eating habits, and improve their overall relationship with food.”

“The mayor and chancellor's unprecedented investment in New York City’s school meals program is truly transformative,” said Liz Accles, executive director, Community Food Advocates. “Creating welcoming, modernized, student friendly cafeterias through expansion of the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience impacts the entire school environment. The redesigned cafeterias convey to the entire school community the core value of school meals in promoting student health, wellbeing, and the ability to thrive academically.”

“The food education roadmap addresses some of the most important challenges of our time; that is people and planet health through the food system,” said Dr. Zeynab Jouzi, post-doctoral associate, Action Research Collaborative (ARC), Cornell University. “This roadmap can inspire and empower the next generation of New Yorkers to become compassionate stewards of their health and the planet they inherit.”

“The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute commends Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and Executive Director MacKenzie for implementing a roadmap to prioritize food education in New York City's public schools,” said Nevin Cohen, deputy director, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. “This critical investment in our children's lifelong health and wellbeing will empower graduates to advocate for healthier food environments in their communities, leading to a healthier future for all.”
“The Adams Administration has envisioned a comprehensive and ambitious roadmap to address critical equity and access issues that have persisted for far too long,” said Lynn Fredericks, founder, FamilyCook Productions. “By harnessing existing resources while adding considerable financial investment and transparency in progress measurement, real change can be realized over time.

“The Food Education Roadmap is an ambitious plan to foster a culture of healthy eating, from improving school meals to providing the tools for our communities to be more healthy, sustainable and equitable,” said Leslie Gordon, president and CEO, Food Bank for New York City. “Food Bank For New York City recognizes the significance of empowering New York’s school children and their families to make informed decisions about food and nutrition. We applaud this investment in the future of our city and look forward to continuing to partner with New York City schools in providing nutrition education through our CookShop program.”

“The release of the Food Education Roadmap brings us closer to the day when all of our young people are connected to experiences with food and nature while addressing climate change, individual health and social equity,” said Betty Feibusch, co-leader, Garden Train. “Garden Train, a network of school garden leaders and advocates, applauds this document’s goal to empower members of school communities including parents, teachers and food service workers. It acknowledges the importance of community-based partners.”

“Bravo Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and Kate MacKenzie. This is what comprehensive commitment to healthy children via healthy food looks like,” said Stephen Ritz, founder, Green Bronx Machine. The most important school supply in the world is healthy food! Children will never be well read if they are not well-fed, and our public schools are the perfect place to start. This bold initiative is proof positive that New York City is not following a path, but creating a trail and playbook for improved access, positive health outcomes, stronger local economies, increased climate resiliency and environmental stewardship. This work aligns perfectly with the community advocacy and grassroots, data-driven results we have been championing at Green Bronx Machine for years. This roadmap respects our collective lived experiences and celebrates the incredible diversity of our city. Today, children, parents, educators, families, farmers, doctors, and future generations celebrate and applaud this commitment and boldly embrace this blueprint for our collective better wellness. I could not be more excited or grateful — let's do this!”

“We are thrilled that Mayor Adams is making food education a priority. At Green Beetz, we have spent 10 years working to empower kids to navigate the modern food system and make healthy choices for themselves, their communities, and the planet,” said Anna Chapman, founder, Green Beetz. “Our experience with middle school students and teachers across the five boroughs has proved how transformative this work can be for physical and mental health. We hope that this administration’s roadmap will have a powerful impact within New York City and be used as a model nationwide."

“GrowNYC commends Mayor Adams for this bold step towards bridging the health disparities that have long existed in our schools,” said Kristin Fields, director of education, GrowNYC. “We’re excited to see a unified and cohesive effort with resources to support equitable nutrition education at all schools citywide, prioritizing health alongside academics.”

“The students of New York City are our future. The evidence and research show that how our students are nourished has a significant impact on their school attendance, academic performance and overall health,” said Annette Nielsen, executive director, Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. “The Center applauds the Adams administration’s dedication to making our students a priority. Through these smart initiatives, our students will receive the education necessary to make informed food choices and realize greater access to healthful and nutritious, culturally appropriate meals.”

“Congratulations to Mayor Adams and his team for making food education a priority in New York City schools,” said Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, New York University. “I can’t think of a better way to empower kids to promote their own health as well as their families’ health.  I can’t wait to see the schools putting these goals into practice!"

“This roadmap paves the way for greater access to nutritious, culturally appropriate meals in our schools and in our communities — essential to the health and learning of our next generation,” said Rachel Sabella, New York director, No Kid Hungry. “We’re grateful to Mayor Adams, Chancellor Banks, and Director MacKenzie for the Administration’s continued commitment to fighting food insecurity in the five boroughs and look forward to continuing our partnership to ensure all kids and families have access to the healthy meals they need and deserve.”

“We are thrilled to see New York City’s commitment to the well-being of its students through the prioritization of food education,” said Taylor Meredith, education policy advisor, Pilot Light. “By prioritizing food education, New York City is leading the way by cultivating a generation of individuals equipped with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices throughout their lives and to advocate for a better food future.”

“As a New Yorker, I am energized and proud to get behind this movement in support of food literacy, which, absolutely, impacts every area of a child’s development. An educated food consumer is the best eater,” said Rebecca Johnson, partnerships manager, Plant Powered Metro New York. “School classrooms and cafeterias, undoubtedly, function as a support for building healthy eating habits. This is low-hanging fruit — the foods are there, now let’s teach them about them. For years, food education in schools has been ‘the little engine that could,’ so the mayor’s integration of food into the education system invites the community, students, staff and families to unite in a ramped up whole-child approach to promote healthy eating choices with positive health outcomes for all.”

“We empathize with Mayor Adams as we work first-hand with children in communities with tragically high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, communities of color with a chronic lack of access to fresh, nutritious food,” said Solomon Long, chair, Seeds in the Middle. “Most of our kids used to think apples came from a supermarket aisle, not a farm. We know personally the powerful positive impact of nutrition on a student's mind and well-being and ability to learn.  We are hopeful that Mayor Adams food education initiative funding can support community-based initiatives like ours and local farmers as we expand affordable access to our lowest income, food-insecure communities. Thank you, Mayor Adams, for your advocacy.”

“At Spoons Across America, we are thrilled to see Mayor Adams prioritizing the critical need for food education in the public school system,” said Katherine Boulud, vice president, Spoons Across America. “Teaching children how and why to make better food choices is the first step towards healthier, more successful communities. Academic performance and mental health skyrocket when we fuel young minds and bodies with fresh, whole foods and every child deserves that advantage. The knowledge students gain in the classroom inspires them to try the fresh, plant-based meals being introduced in the cafeteria on Meatless Mondays and Plant Powered Fridays. Food education programs also empower them to be advocates for healthful eating with their families and amongst peers outside of school.  This well-devised roadmap has enormous potential to put New York City on track as the capital of urban food policy reform in the country. At Spoons Across America, we look forward to working with Mayor Adams and the MOFP to see it through!”

“The Sylvia Center applauds Mayor Adams’ efforts to prioritize food education in New York City Public Schools. For more than 15 years, we have been building a foundation of knowledge necessary for young people and families to make informed food choices that support their health and well-being through our nutrition-focused, culinary programming,” said Barbara A. Glassman, executive director, The Sylvia Center. “We look forward to partnering with the city to empower even more students and community members to become advocates for healthy eating at school, home, and throughout our city.”

“This roadmap and the strategies articulated by the mayor, the chancellor, and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy to boost food education and healthy food access for our public school students and their families who are most at-risk of experiencing the multiple negative outcomes of an unhealthy diet, and to center this work within our schools, comes at a key moment for our city and its recovery from the COVID pandemic,” said Kathy Soll, CEO and founder, Teens for Food Justice. “This roadmap takes critical steps towards equipping our next generation with not only the tools and resources to live longer, healthier, more productive lives but, also with the knowledge and skills to build a thriving food economy that will ensure that all New Yorkers have access to and understanding of affordable, healthy food, the central tenet of Teens for Food Justice’s mission. It recognizes the relationship between a well-fed child and their academic potential as well as the centrality of schools as community hubs for accessing healthy food and nutrition information.  Teens for Food Justice eagerly looks forward to the role it can play through its school-based farms, which currently grow nearly 40,000 pounds of fresh produce for our students and communities annually, and connected STEM, work-based learning, health/nutrition, and advocacy programming in schools, in supporting the mayor’s and chancellor’s goals through this roadmap.”

“For nearly 20 years, Wellness in the Schools has been partnering with the city to teach children daily habits to learn, live and thrive,” said Nancy Easton, founder and CEO, Wellness in the Schools. “We applaud Mayor Adams and his team for leading the way toward a healthier city, by prioritizing food education in public schools, including bringing scratched-cooked, plant-based and culturally relevant food to schools, combined with education for students, families and cafeteria staff. This is a recipe for improved well-being for the next generation.”


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