NYC Releases Roadmap to Improve Food Education in Schools

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Food education roadmap

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Prioritizing Food Education in Our Public Schools: A path to developing a healthy next generation

Overview: New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the Department of Education (DOE), and the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP) have released a roadmap to improving food and nutrition education for students in the public school system. 

Location: New York City

Population: 7.9 million

Food policy category: Nutrition, public health

Program goals: To ensure that public school students learn about wellness and healthy eating habits and have access to healthy food in schools. 

How it works: The roadmap includes three main goals for improving health and nutrition, along with specific strategies for reaching those goals. 

The first goal is for students to build knowledge and habits related to healthy eating and wellness. The Mayor, DOE, and MOFP will develop a Food Education Guidebook, convene a Food Education Council, and offer professional development for educators. In addition, more plant-forward school meal options will be offered to students.

The second goal is to ensure that students have access to and consume healthy food in schools. School meal participation will be analyzed to determine student preferences. Ethnic and cultural foods will be made more available to students, and investments will be made to improve equipment in school kitchens and cafeterias.

The third goal is to give the school community – including food service workers, educators, staff, and families – the knowledge and resources necessary to advocate for health and wellness. Resources such as Chefs in the Schools, school gardens, culinary training programs, and professional development opportunities will be offered to school community members to advance this goal. 

Progress to date: It is unclear what progress has been made since the roadmap was just released in June.

Why it is important: The vast majority of Americans do not consume the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Healthy eating can help prevent and manage chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that schools create environments that support students’ making healthy food choices by providing consistent messaging about good nutrition and ensuring access to healthy foods on school grounds. The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) emphasizes the importance of repeated exposure to fruits and vegetables, accessibility of healthy foods, and a focus on sustainable habits in order to create lifelong habits. 

It is important for children to learn about and practice healthy lifestyles from a young age so they will be more likely to maintain these habits into adulthood and reduce their risk of chronic and potentially fatal illnesses. 

Program/Policy initiated: The roadmap was released on June 6, 2023, but a timeline for accomplishing the three goals has not been specified. 

Point of contact: 
Office of the Mayor
(212) 788-2958

Similar practices: Mayor Adams has been working to improve nutrition and increase plant-based options in NYC schools since he was sworn into office in January 2022. NYC schools have been offering Plant-Powered Fridays since February 2022, and a Chefs Council, designed to develop culturally relevant, nutritious meals for students, was announced in September 2022. In December 2022, an expansion of the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience was announced to improve more than 80 school cafeterias and increase halal options for students. On June 2, 2023, the NYC DOE was awarded an $8.4 million grant to purchase locally grown foods for school meals. 

Evaluation: The roadmap delineates indicators to measure progress for each strategy, including:

  • Number of schools offering food education programming 
  • Number of classrooms and students reached at each school
  • Number of teachers and educators trained, based on geography and age group 
  • Student meal participation analyzed by menu type 
  • Number of schools offering breakfast in the classroom, grab-n-go breakfast, and breakfast after the bell
  • Number of halal kitchen requests received and completed 
  • Number of halal and other culturally appropriate recipes developed and put on menus
  • Number of culinary staff trained to prepare halal and other culturally appropriate menu items
  • Number of schools surveyed for kitchen and cafeteria needs 
  • Number of kitchens and cafeterias serviced 
  • Number of schools with the Cafeteria Experience Enhancement program
  • Number of community members reached by Chefs in Schools
  • Number of schools with gardens in each school district
  • Number of participants taking advantage of culinary training opportunities by district
  • Number of professional development, leadership, and experiential learning opportunities provided to school community members

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