A Queens public school is the first to go vegetarian in New York City. A Queens public school is the first to go vegetarian in New York City.

Rather than chowing down on hamburgers or corndogs, students at Flushing’s PS 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, have gone meatless with black beans, red roasted potatoes, falafel and brown rice for lunch.

“I am proud of the students and staff for trailblazing this extraordinary path,” said New York City schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said as he recognized PS 244 for being the first public school in the city to serve all-vegetarian food.

Founded in 2008, the school noticed that many children were bringing their own vegetarian lunches. The kitchen began serving vegetarian meals three times a week in 2012, and removed meat completely from its breakfast and lunch menus this January.


Since the menu change, many students have asked their mothers to make kidney beans or buy brown rice, said Robert Groff, who co-founded the school and has served as principal for the last two years.

"One of the biggest challenges was getting the right personnel in place,” Groff said. "Our head cook is a vegetarian herself and is also a parent. She has a second grader in the school."

Preparing vegetarian food is also more time-consuming than simply baking a hamburger.

But Groff said the new menu is part of the school’s effort to encourage healthy lifestyles. "It is about educating their mind, body and character all together."