For New Yorkers Who Want Plant-Based Food, ‘Meatless Mondays’ Are Only a Start
By Amanda D’Ambrosio, Mallika Mitra and Kelly Zegers
May 14, 2019
A grocer on Bayard Street in Chinatown sells vegetables at lower costs than chain stores. But prices are not consistent throughout New York City, where it’s difficult to find accessible and affordable vegan food items across borough lines.
“Meatless Mondays” are coming to New York City public schools.
In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that students will only be provided vegetarian options for breakfast and lunch on Mondays, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. Many New York officials congratulated the mayor on the initiative.
“Learning to eat healthy food is one of the most important lessons our children can gain as part of their education; and access to healthy food is an essential part of our preventative care,” State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi said in a statement.
But “Meatless Mondays” doesn’t solve the problem of inaccessibility to healthy foods in all New York City neighborhoods. What if students, whether they are from a low- or high-income community, want to continue a plant-based diet in their everyday lives?
Prices of plant-based diet staples vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. We compared the prices of staples in the neighborhood with the highest average median household income (SoHo with $125,300), the lowest (Hunts Point with $25,000) and one in the middle (Jackson Heights with $50,800). The incomes are according to a 2017 report published by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Inaccessibility to plant-based food stems from a lot of different things, in addition to the prices.
“A lot of it comes down to convenience,” said Erick Castro, co-owner of Rip’s Malt Shop, who runs an Instagram account called “How to be vegan in the hood.” “If a mom comes home late from work, it’s hard for them to cook something different.”
Aside from the challenge of convenience when cooking plant-based, it may also be difficult to find accessible and affordable vegan food items across borough lines.
“We have vegan products available in the Bronx. It’s just so hard to find because there is not really an emphasis on the veganism or plant-based eating.”
“We have vegan products available in the Bronx,” said Alexis Montoya, activist and founder of The Bronx Vegan. “It’s just so hard to find because there is not really an emphasis on the veganism or plant-based eating.”
Montoya, who has practiced a plant-based lifestyle for the past year and a half, said that stores and restaurants sell plant-based products without advertising those items as vegan. And while she may be able to find staples for her plant-based diet at her local grocery store, vegan meats and cheeses that make cultural cuisine in her community come to life are not yet available in supermarkets.
“I think the trend really hasn’t hit as prominently as it has in other boroughs,” she said.