Monday, September 22, 2014

Oakland Schools, Students, and the Planet Win With #MeatlessMonday

Meatless Monday is a concept that goes back to WWI, as a resource-saving measure during the war. It came back during WWII and through the post-war years to help feed a war-torn Europe. The modern movement in the U.S. began in 2003 when the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health re-launched the effort, with the message of "one day a week, cut out meat" as a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.

It's a pretty simple idea. Raising meat takes a lot of resources (including one near and dear to the hearts of Californians, namely water), a lot more than the equivalent nutrition from plants. Eating too much meat can lead to health problems. So eat less meat, use fewer resources, be healthier—a win all around. While a lot of people aren't willing to give up meat or all animal products full-time, if they all ate less meat, we would all benefit. If the world consumed 15% less meat, it would be like taking 240,000 cars off the road each year.

The Baltimore public schools became the first major public school system to do Meatless Mondays in 2009; the Oakland Unified School District started in 2010. Overall the reception from the students has been positive. After tasting one dish, a 4th grader told his cafeteria manager, "I want to eat this forever!". The staff love Meatless Monday, too, and are working on expanding the vegetarian options which are available during the rest of the week as well.

The OUSD Department of Nutrition Services isn't stopping there. They've also recently started a "California Thursdays" program, as part of a USDA Farm to School program. it's all California-produced goods, many from the Bay Area. And of course, it includes some meatless options, too.

So are OUSD's meatless recipes the real deal? The Humane Society of the United States thinks so. They held a national Meatless Monday recipe contest, and while OUSD's "Yakisoba Noodles with Stir Fried Tofu and Bok Choy" recipe didn't win, it was one of the finalists and is what the 4th grader loves so much. The recipes of all the finalists can be found here (PDF), so try one out and give #MeatlessMonday a try. It's good for you and for the planet.

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