The news that 15 schools in Brooklyn will join the Meatless Mondays movement this spring is worthy of attention in and of itself, but what if other schools in New York follow that lead?
A press release announcing the decision leads me to believe that it could happen.
Announcement of Meatless Mondays at schools
The press release on the official website of the City of New York that announced schools’ upcoming involvement in Meatless Monday – which involves both breakfasts and lunches served at the schools -- included comments from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York City Council member Carlos Menchaca, among others. All four of those praised the movement, which Menchaca described as a “pilot” program.
The words “healthy” and “sustainable” were commonly used by the public officials, as well as leaders from other non-governmental organizations such as American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Farm Sanctuary.
How will students, parents respond?
While it is certainly possible to have a healthy vegetarian meal, the overall tone of the release is that such meals are, from a health and nutrition standpoint, superior to those that include meat and poultry. Most dietitians would say that isn’t necessarily the case.
What is concerning is that the release says nothing to indicate the Meatless Mondays initiative may not be well-received, and none of the elected officials who commented said the decision to have schools participate was made based on constituent desires.
I’ll admit, the only knowledge of Brooklyn schools I have is from the old TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” which centered on the fictional James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn. But I would imagine there will be some unhappiness as a result of the Meatless Mondays mandate.
I also realize there will be some students and parents praising the decision, which is fine.
However, if this movement in Brooklyn is meant to be a form of testing the waters before rolling out Meatless Mondays in other New York schools, we can only hope that it is based on the reception in Brooklyn and that input from patrons of those schools — whose views may differ — is sought before a decision is made.
Animal agriculture industry has opportunity for dialogue
The activity on the Meatless Mondays front can be viewed as another situation for animal agriculture to make itself heard.
In a recent WATTAgNet blog, Austin Alonzo wrote that a Nielsen report showed 39 percent of Americans surveyed want to get more plant-based protein in their diets, and 83 percent of those people stated the desire to improve their health and nutrition was the reason they wanted more plant-based protein. Alonzo wrote that the report should serve as a reminder that those in the meat and poultry industry should include health as a key part of its marketing efforts. The Meatless Mondays initiative should be yet another reminder.
Also, most people in the meat and poultry industry favor offering choices to consumers, which is severely limited in a Meatless Mondays setting. That point also needs to be made.