New York City is a world leader in implementing plant-based solutions to address the climate crisis and improve peoples’ health. It is introducing climate friendly food in schools, hospitals, jails, and community events throughout the city. Mayor Eric Adams, dubbed the ‘plant based mayor,’ was a strong advocate before being elected mayor, and has kept his commitment with a stream of major plant-based initiatives in New York City since he took office on January 1, 2022.
Eric Adams was born in Brooklyn on September 1, 1960 to a working class family. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with advanced type 2 diabetes. He started his journey by googling “reversing diabetes” and learned how a whole food, plant-based diet can reverse the disease. After shifting from a processed food diet, consisting of fast food and donuts, to a whole foods plant-based diet, he noticed remarkable results: “When I switched to a plant-based diet, I saw an immediate difference in my health. Within three months, I lost weight, lowered my cholesterol, restored my vision, and reversed my diabetes.”
“A plant-based diet restored my eyesight, put my Type 2 diabetes into remission, and helped save my life.” – Mayor Eric Adams
In a 2020 interview with Forks Over Knives, Adams said, “In the past, my entire meal was built around my life, now my life is built around my meal” (FOK interview). He chops his carrots and other veggies for the week. “90% of what I eat is what I cook.” When he was ill, Adams visited 5 doctors in New York City and none of them suggested a plant-based diet to help reverse his health issues, instead they all looked to prescribe medication. It shouldn’t be this way; people should be aware of the powerful positive health benefits a whole foods plant-based diet can bring. Adams was inspired to write a book to help people take charge of their own health, Healthy At Last: A Plant Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and other Chronic Diseases (Hay House, 2020).
7 trailblazing NYC initiatives under Mayor Adams’ leadership that could be rolled out where you live too:
1. Plant Powered Fridays
NYC’s Department of Education launched Meatless Mondays in all schools in 2019. At the beginning of February 2022, Mayor Eric Adams added Plant-Powered Fridays, requiring that the main entree served in all public schools each Friday to be vegan, benefiting the lives of close to one million children in the NYC public school system. The NYC website says a vegan option is available as the “primary” meal option on a Friday and “students may also select from non-plant-based meal options, and milk is always available.”
Despite the mayor’s best efforts, Plant-Powered Fridays aren’t entirely vegan due to a federal requirement under the US Department of Agriculture guidelines, public schools are required to serve a carton of cow’s milk at all school meals. Prior to becoming mayor, Eric Adams tried unsuccessfully to push the city’s Department of Education to ban chocolate-flavored dairy milk. Adams said, “We should be encouraging them to drink more water.”
Example of Plant-Powered Meals:
- 3 Bean Chili
- Pasta Primavera
- Big City Bean Taco
- Black Bean and Plantain Power Bowl
- Mediterranean Chickpeas
- Zesty Chickpea Stew
Throughout the week, the menus also offer plant-based options like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a hummus pre-prepared meal.
2. Serving Plant-Based food at events
Plant-based foods are exclusively served at NYC’s cultural events hosted by the Mayor’s Office, including heritage events such as LGBTQ Pride, Juneteenth Celebration, Greek Heritage, Puerto Rican Heritage, Jewish Heritage, and Asian-Pacific American Heritage.
Just some of the delicious vegan food served at the Mayor’s holiday party. Photograpy/Patrick Kwan
3. Consumption-based inventory for greenhouse gas emissions with C40 cities
On May 9, 2022, at a joint press conference with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Mayor Eric Adams announced New York City will be signing onto C40’s Good Food Cities Declaration. One of the first projects is a collaboration in developing emission inventories for London and New York City.
“This initiative will pioneer new ways for our cities to calculate and reduce emission from urban consumptions, including the food we eat, often left out of the conversation. How we deliver our food, the food we eat, how we raise our food is contributing to our environmental crisis. This is the first step towards bringing food, construction materials, and consumer goods into our decarbonization strategies. Never been done before, we are doing it for the first time, London and New York City.” – Mayor Eric Adams
This new project is being underwritten by American Express’s Good Corporate Community Partnership. The C40 cities website states: “American Express will support the development of consumption-based emissions inventories in New York City and London.” According to the report, London’s food footprint: An analysis of material flows, consumption-based emissions, and levers for climate action: “Associated emissions are highly dependent on the type of food consumed. They are lower for plant-based products and higher for meat and dairy products…”
At the C40 cities World Summit, Mayor Adams announced that NYC has lowered the carbon emission of the food purchased as a city by 37 percent. This was achieved by the collective actions of Meatless Mondays and Plant-Powered Fridays in schools, and making plant forward meals the default in New York City Health + Hospital facilities.
4. Default plant-based in hospitals, 60% stick with the plant-based option
“From launching Plant-Powered Fridays in all public schools, to expanding Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Clinics in NYC Health + Hospitals facilities to all five boroughs, we are implementing transformative changes in the meals we serve and the food we source.” – NYC Mayor Eric Adams
New York City Health and Hospitals, NYC’s public hospital system, has partnered with The Better Food Foundation and Greener by Default to make plant-based meals the default option for all inpatients in their network of 11 hospitals. Greener by Default provides behavioral strategies to “nudge” patients towards making sustainable, healthy food choices without restricting their options. All eligible patients are now offered two vegan Chef’s Special meals by default and can opt out of both if they want a meat based entree. The hospitals report that 60% of eligible patients are opting to stick with the plant-based options, which are delivering significant greenhouse gas emissions savings, as well as ensuring patients are eating healthier food.