Lately on the web I have been noticing many more vegetarian recipes being posted, which serves me well as someone who has not eaten red meat or poultry in 20 years. I could never quite explain why that was the route I took at that time. It was simply that meat did not appeal to me any more. With more and more of my online friends cooking amazing meatless meals for their families, I have wondered whether it is time to serve more vegetarian options at school as well. At the very least, we should expect our schools to be practicing what they preach. It is one thing to talk to them about healthy eating and the four food groups, when they are serving a multitude of junk in the cafeteria.
So when the folks at the humane society mentioned their push for more Meatless Mondays in schools, I wanted to hear more of their thoughts on the topic. Here it is, in the words of Kristie Middleton, food policy manager at the Humane Society of the United States:
“Meatless Mondays” – it’s a growing trend with real purpose behind it.
Our health, the sustainability of our environment and economy, animal welfare and the vibrancy of our rural economies all argue for reducing meat in our diets. And one more thing: There has never been a more exciting time to expand our dining horizons. Skipping meat one day a week is not a sacrifice but an adventure.
Nationally acclaimed food writers, such as The New York Times’ Mark Bittman and The Washington Post’s Joe Yonan are helping the nation discover that meat-free meals that will leave you licking your lips and watching the clock, just waiting for the dinner hour. Eating your vegetables? If you don’t know the possibilities encompassed by that phrase in 2013, you are missing out.
With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the concept of Meatless Monday is spreading.
In this context, meatless doesn’t mean “less” at all. It means “more,” as in more choices. It means “better” as in better living – both for us and for animals. A 2011 online tracking survey found that roughly one in five Americans had been influenced by the campaign.
Meatless Monday is a key element of The Humane Society of the United States’ philosophy of the 3R’s of eating – “reducing” or “replacing” consumption of animal products, and “refining” our diets by choosing products from farms that answer to higher animal welfare standards.
Not just restaurants and “foodies,” but cafeterias around the world are participating. For example, international food service provider Sodexo joined the Meatless Monday movement in 2011 – providing expanded fare at college campuses and more than 900 hospitals across the country.
During the past two years, thousands of schools, school districts, universities and hospitals have adopted the program. For example, St. Ignatius School in the Bronx now offers vegetarian options every Monday. At the school’s cooking classes, parents and kids learn how to make healthy, nutritious meals.
Another institution that has implemented Meatless Monday is the Academy for Global Citizenship located in Chicago. The public charter school’s director of sustainability and operations, Dan Schnitzer, explained that it “fits perfectly with our philosophy of healthy kids, a healthy environment, and compassion towards animals.”
Even entire school districts, like Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second largest school district, are starting off the week meat-free.
Many sustainable family farmers support the idea too. Why? Because meat consumption is not sustainable at today’s levels. Animals, the environment and our rural communities all suffer with the relentless expansion of pollution-rich factory farms, where animals are kept in unhealthy conditions and squeezed into cages so tightly that they often cannot even turn around.
The initiative was developed by The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with the goal of promoting healthy, environmentally sustainable diets. It’s designed to address the overconsumption of meat that’s contributing to record levels of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and a litany of other diseases.
If you would like to bring Meatless Monday to your local school, inform administrators of the benefits and ask for a trial. For your own dinner table, try these fresh recipes: