In New York hospitals, patients can choose between meatless pasta bolognese or paella without seafood. In order to reduce the city’s CO2 emissions, all dishes in the city’s clinics have been vegan for twelve months – that is, they contain no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products.
The balance after one year: food-related carbon dioxide emissions have already fallen by 36 percent. And to the surprise of the canteen bosses, the patients seem enthusiastic. Surveys show: With a satisfaction rate of over 90 percent, most people apparently taste vegan dishes better than many previously available meat dishes.
Vegan? This sounds too didactic here
Nevertheless, the strict instruction is: just don’t describe the food as vegan. One fears that the word could come across as too politicizing, too green or didactic. Hence the advice: don’t even mention that the first two menu options are always based on purely plant-based foods.
“Experience shows that words like vegan can have negative connotations and trigger prejudices,” said Samantha Morgenstern from the food service company that supplies New York hospitals in the New York Times (NYT). Better to say “plant-based food”. However, if a patient absolutely insists on meat, this wish will be fulfilled. But: Nine out of ten patients are very satisfied with the vegan cuisine.
New York Mayor Eric Adams has been a vegan himself for years and says: “Switching to a purely plant-based diet saved my life.” Like many other African Americans, the 63-year-old Democrat used to be overweight. After just three months of a vegan diet, he lost 35 pounds, was able to dramatically reduce his cholesterol levels and resolve his diabetes and vision problems. In the cookbook “Healthy at Last,” the former police officer shares his favorite recipes for smoothies, vegan chili or ice cream made from bananas, peanut butter and cocoa powder.
Schools and prisons will also soon become vegan
Shortly after taking office in 2022, Adams promised to reduce food-related CO2 emissions from city facilities by 33 percent by 2030. It is now 36 percent less. According to experts, food consumption in New York’s schools, prisons and 11 hospitals was responsible for 20 percent of the city’s carbon dioxide emissions – almost as much as the exhaust fumes from all vehicles per year (22 percent).
According to a recent Oxford University study, a plant-based diet produces 75 percent fewer greenhouse gases than meals containing 100 grams of meat per day. According to analyses, a third of all CO2 emissions come from the global food system – primarily from the consumption of beef, lamb and cheese.
After the clinics, there will now be more vegetarian and vegan food in New York schools and in the city’s prisons. In the future, salami will be removed from pizza for school children and roast beef from sandwiches. “To get twenty grams of protein from beef—that is, what is supposed to make up the protein content of a meal—emits as much exhaust fumes as burning a gallon of gasoline,” Duke University professor Richard Larrick wrote in the NYT. (1 gallon = 3.79 liters). “For almost everything else, it’s less than a fifth of a gallon.”
One inmate is particularly happy about the plant-based diet
At least one prison inmate can’t wait for the new menu. Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has been detained at the notorious Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn for a month. The 31-year-old is accused of diverting more than $100 million from his clients to support candidates in the 2022 US midterm elections.
Bankman-Fried is vegan. The former billionaire suffers greatly from the food in prison, his lawyers complain. The prison barely accommodates its client’s vegan wishes. He often has to live on water, bread and peanut butter. Another complaint is that Bankman-Fried does not always receive his doctor-prescribed ADHD medication. The Internet also rarely works reliably.
Conditions in the MDC have been making headlines for years. The National Association of American Criminal Defense Lawyers described the conditions in the prison as “inhumane.” Ghislaine Maxwell, who was detained here before her trial, spoke of “hell on earth”. “Nobody would put the MDC on their list of five-star institutions,” the judge confessed when he revoked Bankman-Fried’s house arrest bail in August.
The FTX founder’s internet and medication supplies may remain unreliable in prison. But if everything goes according to the mayor’s plans, he should at least soon be served more vegan dishes.