New York state hospitals required to serve vegan meals by law
December 15, 2020
Recently, a groundbreaking bill has been passed in the US state of New York. As of 6 December 2020, all hospitals within the state are legally required to offer plant-based food options with every meal. We look forward to seeing more and more public health institutions following this example and serving plant-based diets to support physical health.
Poor diet is a risk factor for disease
Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are chronic non-infectious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory conditions, cancers and diabetes. Currently, NCDs are the leading cause of death and disease burden worldwide. The WHO reports that addressing risk factors for NCDs could prevent up to 75% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, as well as 40% of cancers. The most important and consistent risk factor is a poor diet.
In 2017, the WHO Global Burden of Disease Study reported that a poor diet is responsible for more deaths globally than tobacco, high blood pressure, or any other health risk. Poor diets were responsible for more than 10.9 million deaths, or 22% of all deaths among adults.
COVID-19 is an infectious condition that does not fall under the umbrella of NCD. However, if an individual contracts the virus while struggling with a NCD, it will likely affect the outcome and severity of illness. The COVID-19 comorbidity figures indicate that a large proportion of those who died from the virus had high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
The plant based diet solution
A plant-based diet consists of fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Whole plant foods are full of fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, free from cholesterol, and low in calories and saturated fat. Those who eat a plant-based diet lower their risk for NCDs including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other health conditions.
The American Dietetic Association states that an appropriately planned vegan diet is healthful, nutritionally adequate and appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
New York responds to health crisis
The local population within the state of New York is suffering from a high burden of noncommunicable diseases. The New York State Department of Health reports that nearly 1.7 million New Yorkers have diabetes and heart disease accounts for 40% of all deaths in the New York state. The New York Senate has decided to take action by offering plant-based meals to all patients within hospitals.
Bill S1471A/A4072 ensures all meals and snacks must include an option that is completely free from animal products. The plant-based options must also come at no extra cost. It also states that every hospital must respond in “a reasonable manner” to patient requests and include the plant-based options on all written materials and menus.
Setting an example for the whole planet
South Africans, just like New Yorkers, are suffering with a heavy burden of noncommunicable disease. Over half of the South African population is classified as overweight or obese. Currently, the public health institutions are not advocating for a plant-based diet to prevent, manage and reverse disease. Some private healthcare facilities have vegan food options available upon request.
New York is setting an example for the rest of the world to follow. Many South Africans would benefit from eating a plant-based diet during hospital admission, and it would provide an opportunity for medical professionals to educate patients on the importance of a healthy diet. We look forward to watching the power of a plant-based diet ripple through the hospitals on our planet.
Kick start your plant-based diet with our ProVeg Veggie Challenge.