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Meatless options at Founders promote health

Having long been committed to offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, Bon Appétit, Mills College’s food service provider, has recently implemented Meatless Mondays at Founders Commons and the Tea Shop.

Meatless Monday is an opportunity for an individual to choose meatless or vegan options, while those who are already doing these things can help by spreading the word.

According to Jason Landau, Bon Appétit’s General Manager at Mills, all of the items served for lunch and dinner on the Global line at Founders will be vegetarian on Mondays, while Founders’ Classics line will continue to offer both vegetarian and meat options.

“Personally, I think that I haven’t been eating meat too often lately,” said Mills sophomore Rose Sarinas-Wong. “I tend to stay more towards a vegetarian type diet, and I eat meat every once in a while to supplement my diet. But I think that Meatless Monday is a good plan for those who tend to stray towards heavier meats to help with health issues.”

While Bon Appétit has always served a variety of food, whether vegetarian, vegan, or with meat, the implementation of Meatless Monday has raised a new awareness in healthy eating.

“It’s really important to have a lot of options every day,” Landau said.  “Meatless Monday began with the Humane Society to get (the movement) started in a lot of difference places which didn’t necessarily offer vegetarian and vegan options. We (Bon Appétit) offer those options every day.”

Other institutions, including colleges and food service providers, are jumping on the bandwagon and increasing their meatless options.

“The Meatless Monday campaign has mushroomed across the country in the last nine years,” said Kristie Middleton, Humane Society for the United States (HSUS) Outreach Manager. “It’s become so pervasive that the American Meat Institute did a survey and found that 50 percent of people have heard of Meatless Monday and another 18 percent are taking steps to reduce their meat consumption.”

Meatless Monday dates back to the early 20th century.

According to Josh Balk, a spokesperson for the HSUS, Meatless Monday was first introduced during World War I by the U.S. Food and Drug administration as a way for Americans to conserve resources during wartime. The movement was then brought back again by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during World War II.

In 2003, following a slump in the movement, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health re-launched Meatless Monday in an effort to promote sustainability, animal welfare and public health.

“Meatless Monday is now a multi-national campaign, with major metropolitan areas across the world implementing Meatless Monday,” Middleton said.  “For example, in the United Kingdom, Paul McCartney supports what some call ‘meat-free Monday’.”

Bon Appétit, meanwhile, supports meatless choices as part of the company’s philosophy.

“Every single Bon Appétit offers vegetarian entrees every day, not just on Mondays, and usually vegan ones as well,” said Bonnie Powell, Bon Appétit Company’s Director of Communications. “Through our Low Carbon Diet program, we have reduced our use of beef by 33 percent in 2007, the equivalent of meatless Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning.”

Since first being implemented in the early 1900s, people have chosen to participate in Meatless Monday as a way to preserve their health and save animals from needless suffering.

Meat alternatives made of plant proteins have been created with the same taste and texture as real meat to encourage the participation of non-vegetarians.

At Mills, most of Bon Appétit’s meatless items are stuffed vegetables, such as quinoa-stuffed portobello mushrooms, according to Landau. Founders also offers Morningstar Soy Sausage for breakfast each morning, as well as Morningstar Vegetarian Patties for their weekly Thursday BBQ on the Classics line.

Meanwhile, some individuals in the Meatless Monday movement find it more effective to increase vegetarian offerings rather than completely eliminate meat, eggs and dairy. Another option is to implement substitutes, such as replacing dairy milk with soy, almond or rice milk.

Furthermore, recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods, such as meat and dairy, with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat, such as nuts and seeds, reduces the risk of heart disease by 19 percent.

According to Middleton, there have been a number of studies that link factory farms, establishments that raise high numbers of livestock in a closely confined space to global warming.  The United Nations has said that animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, which doesn’t include the pollutants that take place as a result of run-off from animal waste lagoons.

On factory farms, the waste from animals goes into a pool.  From there it’s removed by a truck and sprayed onto fields as fertilizer.  At the rate that fields are being sprayed, the soil can’t take it all in, leading to run-off.  During natural disasters, animal waste lagoons overflow and flood directly into water supplies, including lakes, streams, and rivers, which results in the pollution of water supplies for people and the massive killing of fish.

Meatless Monday helps combat such adverse conditions.

“I think Meatless Mondays are a great idea because the majority of the meat industry has devastating effects on the environment,” said Mills sophomore Evan Kravette. “Having a day without meat is a good way for Mills to respect the Earth.”

In terms of environmental impact, the Environmental Defense Fund, an expert team of environmental advocates, has said that by cutting out even one meal of meat per week, it would be like taking 500,000 cars off of the road.

“All around, vegetarianism is better for your health and the environment, the land,” Landau said.

In recent years, there has been a growing concern among activists regarding sustainability and animal welfare.

“About 1.8 billion fewer animals would suffer if everyone went meatless one day a week,” Balk said.

Although Meatless Monday has only been recently implemented at Mills, the feedback from other schools regarding the movement is mostly positive.

“Meatless Monday allows us to educate students about alternative lifestyles and that you don’t need meat to have a complete meal,” said Jennifer Le Barre, Oakland Unified School District’s Director of Nutrition Services. “The response has been great at Child Daycare Centers where we serve our 2-5 year olds and at Elementary Schools.  The students at middle and high schools don’t like the program, though, and participation decreases on those days.  This, of course, is counter-productive to the purpose of the National School Lunch Program.  Due to this, we stopped the program at high schools and are considering doing the same for middle schools.”

Despite high school students’ reluctance to partake in non-meat meals, the general consensus is that Meatless Monday is a moderate change that can do many people a lot of good.

In the end, though, it all comes down to money.

The alternatives to eating meat can be expensive, but Bon Appétit isn’t worried about the cost, as they already serve a variety of vegetarian and vegan options that depend on local vegetables from farms within 100 miles of Oakland, including Riverdog Farm, County Line Harvest, Coke Farm, Ratto Brothers, and Gizdich Farms. In addition, whenever the Mills garden has extra produce, Bon Appétit purchases the surplus.

Though implementing Meatless Monday will not decrease costs for Mills, Landau said saving money is secondary to serving great food.

According to Middleton, however, the meat industry is concerned about losing profit if people recognize the adverse affects of eating meat and either reduce or cut meat completely from their diet.

While the meat industry has been successful at advertising their products, Middleton said the Meatless Monday campaign is a response that seeks to reverse the affects of such advertising.

Landau said he is hopeful for the future of Meatless Monday at Mills, and that it will continue at least through the rest of this year.  Regardless of how long Meatless Monday lasts at Mills, though, Bon Appétit will always have vegetarian and vegan options.

“Meatless Monday is a tradition that’s been long embedded in our society,” Middleton said.  “Yet with today’s twist on it, we have an incredible opportunity to make a huge difference in a variety of areas just by our meal choices.”