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Elementary School Cafeteria Goes Vegetarian

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York City elementary school cafeteria is one of the first in the nation to go meatless.

Students at P.S. 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, are being treated to eclectic fare, including black bean and cheese quesadillas, falafel and tofu in an Asian sesame sauce.

“It’s been a really great response from the kids, but they also understand it’s about what is the healthiest option for them,” principal Bob Groff told ABC News. “Because we teach them throughout our curriculum to make healthy choices, they understand what is happening and believe in what we’re doing too.”

When the school opened in 2008, they started serving vegetarian meals three days a week. The campus became a vegetarian test kitchen for the city, Groff said.

“We then started to try out recipes with small groups of students, see what they liked, see what they didn’t like,” he said.

The recipes were a hit, Groff said, prompting the school to expand its meat-free meals to four days a week and then adopting a completely vegetarian kitchen in January.

“The big thing I would like people to know is, this isn’t just about a vegetarian menu,” Groff said. ”It’s about living a healthy lifestyle and educating students on what options are out there.”

All meals have to adhere to USDA standards, he said, making sure students get plenty of nutrients, including protein, for their growing bodies.

That means nutrient-dense foods such as chickpeas, kidney beans and tofu.

If the herbivore-friendly grub doesn’t suit students, Groff said they’re always welcome to pack their lunch, including meat.

The school operates on an application and lottery system, meaning it’s not zoned to a particular neighborhood. It serves 400 students from pre-kindergarten through grade three.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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