Should all public schools have 'Meatless Monday'? | The Tylt
Should all public schools have 'Meatless Monday'?
Officials within the New York City school district are now firm believers in the power of Meatless Monday. As of fall 2019, all public schools within the district will serve up vegetarian meals to students, kicking-off each week with healthy, environmentally conscious breakfasts and lunches.
Huffpost's Nina Golgowski refers to a statement from Mark Chambers, the Director of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, in order to explain the motives behind the cafeteria update:
“Meatless Mondays will introduce hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers to the idea that small changes in their diet can create larger changes for their health and the health of our planet,” [Chambers] said in a release.
By enforcing this change in cafeterias across the city, students of all ages will feel empowered to take control of their futures through small, everyday decisions. Meatless Mondays demonstrate that big change is possible when everyone makes minor sacrifices.
In this light, proponents of Meatless Monday say more school districts should follow in New York's footsteps. According to Friends of the Earth, even just swapping out one specific menu item could have huge environmental benefits.
If that's not enough to convince you, keep in mind that Meatless Mondays also provide students with an opportunity to enjoy whole, healthy foods they might otherwise pass up, obviously including all manner of fruits and vegetables. As Staten Island Borough President James Oddo puts it:
“Look at the data. Look at the childhood obesity. Look at pre-diabetes diagnoses. Look at the fact that 65% of American kids age 12-14 show signs of early cholesterol disease. Then, perhaps you will embrace the fact that we can’t keep doing things the same way, including welcoming the idea of Meatless Mondays,” he said in a statement.
No matter how you feel about forgoing meat, no one can dispute the obesity crisis in America. Given that public schools play a huge role in feeding children in every corner of the country, school districts have a serious responsibility to make meals as healthy as possible.
But not everyone is celebrating this weekly dedication to vegetarian eating. In a scathing response to the New York City school district's decision, the New York Post's Will Coggin disputes the environmental impact of Meatless Monday in schools. Instead, he says, district officials should pay attention to the nutritional impact of cutting meat from 20 percent of school lunches. Furthermore, vegetarian meals do not always translate to healthy meals for kids. Coggin writes:
De Blasio argues that Meatless Mondays will also help students lose weight and get healthy. But it’s hard to see how. A quick look at the March K-8 menu shows that the Mondays are still packed with onion rings, grilled cheese sandwiches and mozzarella sticks. Since when is fried food healthier than lean chicken breast?
On an international level, Meatless Monday has also been called "anti-dairy and anti-livestock," with some claiming that the concept runs counter to "rural life." Critics view the program as manipulative, encouraging students to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle that they would not try otherwise.
Coggin also argues that Meatless Monday will only lead to greater food waste. Parents, teachers and district officials need to be realistic; kids are picky, and shoving unwanted fruits and vegetables in front of them does not necessarily mean they'll eat them.
Studies show that concepts like Meatless Mondays, when applied to school meals, actually lead to more waste and noncompliance. A 2013 study of Helsinki, Finland, schools found that in some cases students were 40 percent more likely to waste food on their plate on forced vegetarian days. School lunch purchases dropped nearly 20 percent.