The Meatless Mondays movement was launched in 2003, largely to the credit of Sid Lerner and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. Ever since, through the combined efforts of school officials, legislators, restaurant owners, celebrities, nutritionists and everyday people, Meatless Mondays has gained traction across the U.S. and is quickly expanding to other parts of the world.
In 2010, Baltimore City Public Schools was the first school system in the U.S. to completely commit to Meatless Mondays. This was a huge step forward, as thousands of children across the nation are now given fresh opportunities to have different meal choices by default. Unfortunately, according to recent news across the U.S., different may not always equal better.
A significant number of commentators of Meatless Mondays have pointed out that public school lunch lines have long provided meat-free options. Indeed, the lunch items found in schools regularly include bagels and cream cheese, cheese pizza, pasta salad, mashed potatoes and applesauce. When taking a closer look, however, it is fairly easy to recognize that these meat-free foods do not have as much nutritional merit as they should.
Meatless Mondays school campaigns
In southern San Francisco, Spruce Elementary School is one of the latest schools to join in on Meatless Mondays, now offering a rotating menu of bean and cheese burritos, taco cheese triangles, string cheese and graham crackers, fruit yogurt and grilled cheese sandwiches to start off the week. Meatless as these meals are, cheese and dairy products are patently regarded as suitable staples but do not provide children with the vital nutrients they need.
Kristie Middleton, food policy manager for the Humane Society of the United States, comments on how “we as a society” are not consuming enough plants and plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans. While schools are taking action in the right direction, it will be some time before public education across the U.S. has menus full with nutritiously dense lunch options.
Among other educational bodies stepping into the world of Meatless Mondays is the Dripping Springs Independent School District of Texas (DSISD), a conglomerate of five schools. Under the guidance of John Crowley, the district’s Director of Child Nutrition Services, the schools are experimenting with the Meatless Mondays cultural movement and observing the results and impact on the children. So far, the directive has been met with mixed reviews, among both students and adults.
In terms of entire cities, as of August 2014, Cleveland, Ohio joined a host of other cities in the U.S. to publicly endorse and deeply encourage their citizens’ participation in Meatless Mondays. The city’s council passed a resolution urging residents to adopt a partially meat-free diet towards the benefits of increasing their health and decreasing negative environmental impact.
Meat-ing with opposition
The Meatless Monday movement is burgeoning, but it still has an uphill battle to face. Sadly, hundreds of school cafeterias across the U.S. are still primarily offering junk food and processed food products, rather than whole, nutritious foods. In 2013, DoSomething.org asked students to send in pictures of their school lunches and then shared over 40 of them on Huffington Post. Needless to say, the results were gut-wrenching.
The future is bright
Fortunately, individuals such as celebrity chef and food educator Jamie Oliver and junior U.S. Senator and activist Cory Booker are paving the way for better and more frequent education about the foods we eat. Among other interests gaining steam is the endless list of vegan comfort foods and analogs, collecting massive traction and popularity on social sites like Pinterest and Instagram. There are even vegan recipes that simultaneously appeal to the taste buds and the waistline, such as vegan lasagna and vegan chili. Meatless Mondays advocates will continue crafting tasty and plentiful ideas for food they can put on the plates of schoolchildren throughout the U.S.