October 6, 2014

Sarasota Schools Take a Bite Out of Climate Change

Alana Ridge

Alana Ridge

Research Program Manager

Food Communities & Public Health Program, CLF

school lunch

Sarasota, Fla., schools to go meatless on Mondays

Most people are unable to reduce their vehicle miles traveled (VMT) overnight to protect the environment and slow climate change. You have to get the kids to school, the dog to daycare, and yourself to work. What if there was another way to tackle climate change while improving your health? Great news! There is! Add a meat-free day to your week. Eating differently is a way to address climate change one bite at a time.

While we can’t or might not want to give up our cars this very instant, we CAN choose one day each week to fill our plates with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans instead of meat. Recent research estimates that animal farming contributes 18 to 31 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change; Cool farming: Climate impacts of agriculture and mitigation potential). By decreasing animal protein consumption, we can reduce our emissions.

Kids in Florida are set to take a bite out of climate change. The Sarasota County School system is launching Meatless Monday today,  October 6, 2014. Cafeterias will serve only meat-free dishes on Mondays. The county aims to source 50 percent of their produce from local farmers and to partner with area chefs to create menus. Plus, the students will be involved in menu selection. Children will complete surveys and dishes to achieve a 70 percent approval rating to stay on the menu. What a terrific way for the school system to engage students in eating a healthy, varied diet while tackling climate change and supporting the local economy!

Personally, I strive to add more plant-based meals to my diet and source the majority of my food from local growers. I pledged to go meatless on Mondays in 2013 after attending an event celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Meatless Monday campaign. Now, as a recent addition to the staff at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, my central responsibility is to lead the Center’s science advisory efforts in support of the national Meatless Monday campaign. In addition to sharing news about the campaign, my blogposts will explore food environments and systems, access to healthy food, food policy, and more. I look forward to sharing what I learn and discover with our readers.

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