November 1, 2010
Today marked the launch of Meatless Monday on Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus. Elaborate banners of cartoon cows, chickens and pigs that read, “Monday is my day off!” greeted students as they entered JHU Dining Service’s three
main dining areas: Levering Food Court, Fresh Food Court and Nolan’s. The Center for a Livable Future, the Office of Sustainability at Hopkins and several student groups including: Students for Environmental Action (SEA), Eco-Reps, and Real Food Hopkins lent JHU Dining a hand in launching the campaign. Meatless Monday asks students to reduce their meat consumption by 15%, by giving up meat once a week, in an attempt to improve health for not only the students themselves, but the environment as well.
Volunteers handed out stickers and pamphlets, while informational posters peppered throughout the cafeterias explained the benefits of going “meatless” once a week. Meatless Monday is a perfect compliment to the Hopkins Sustainability Office’s “Know your Food Print” campaign, whose goal is to educate Hopkins students about how their food choices affect the environment.
JHU Dining’s Executive Chef Michael Gueiss, said he was excited to bring Meatless Monday on campus. While all the meat options remained on the menu, Chef Gueiss made sure that there were plenty of new and some familiar vegetarian meal options available for customers. The meals ranged from new vegetarian pizza options and special lentil soup to a portabella mushroom cheese -melt with sautéed onions.
The reaction from the students was generally positive. Many of them were aware of the coming change from fun promotional banners placed across campus and ads in the school newspaper. Despite that fact that many were familiar with the Meatless Monday campaign, many students were confused about protein and the role of meat in our diet. I interviewed a few students at the main cafeteria:
Scott Bukoski, a soccer player, didn’t feel the need to cut down on his saturated fat due to his work schedule, but did see the potential benefits. “I agree that the average student at Hopkins should probably cut down on the amount of saturated fat that they consume.” However, similar to many students, he felt that the protein from meat was important to his own health, “I feel like the protein is beneficial for my recovery (in sports), probably better than nuts or a protein shake.” This student’s comments point to a bigger issue within the campaign of Meatless Monday. How does the campaign convince the population that plant-based protein can be an acceptable substitute for meat-protein? With time to reflect on the information, even this student-athlete took stock of the message, “I think that it’s good they are trying the gradual approach of one day a week, even as I was walking up to the counter, I was thinking, maybe I’ll eat a little less today.”
Another student welcomed the change with excitement. Lidiana Economou, a vegan, was excited about the increased choices, “It was nice to have more vegetarian choices and the choices seem healthier too.” When asked about how other students might react she said, “Initially when people thought their meat was being taken away, they were upset, but now I think they are going
to welcome it.”
Being a highly educated student body, the arguments that individual health and environmental health are intertwined are not falling on deaf ears. Students throughout the day, stopped and took the time to read the posters and the informational pamphlets. What they ordered when they arrived at the checkout remains to be seen, but anecdotally, I did learn from the cooks that they almost sold out of the special veggie pizza and for the first time in recent memory, veggie slices significantly outsold the pepperoni slices. The lentil soup went faster than it ever had before and the veggie burgers sold faster than expected. Well done Hopkins.