Leading U.S. Food Service Provider Introduces Meatless Monday to Potentially Millions of Customers

The national non-profit Meatless Monday campaign is proving to be “The Little Engine That Could” in the environmental public health world. In just the last two years national awareness of Meatless Monday more than doubled. According to a commissioned survey by FGI Research more than 30 percent of Americans are aware of the public health campaign, compared to 15 percent awareness in 2008. No doubt the announcement last week that Sodexo, a food service company which serves more than 10 million North American customers a day, has adopted the campaign will only help to increase Meatless Monday’s popularity.

A number of Sodexo facilities including the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Cobblestone Cafe′ conducted their own Meatless Monday campaigns. However, starting this month Sodexo expanded the initiative to all of its more than 900 hospital clients, “as part of its ongoing effort to promote health and wellness.” In the spring, the company will offer menus and materials to all of its corporate and government clients and in the fall it will officially implement Meatless Monday at its “Sodexo-served” colleges and schools.

Sodexo joins a growing list of Meatless Monday supporters. Some of the most recent high-profile Meatless Monday converts include Moe’s Southwest Grill; Mario Batali, Celebrity Chef and restaurateur; Laurie David, An Inconvenient Truth producer and dozens of municipalities, universities, colleges, and restaurants. Read More >

Are you learning your food habits at home? Doesn’t look like it.

When I was a teacher, a common gripe among the staff was that the parent’s “weren’t doing their job” at home and how were “we,” the teachers supposed to make up for students whose parents didn’t read to them or encourage them to do their homework. This ongoing blame game ranged from discussions of reading ability, to discipline, to food. We often think that the home is where habits for a healthy life, or a disciplined student, or a physically fit individual begin and end. A new study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health pokes a hole in our teacher’s lounge argument, showing that the relationship between dietary intake of parents and their children is weak, grows weaker with age and is growing weaker over time.

The study looked at parent-child dietary studies from different countries, including the U.S. over the past 30 years and found that across different countries, with similar and different methods, the relationship was weak. What does this mean? Does it mean that parents have no influence over what their children eat, and the type of eaters they become as they grow up? No. Individuals have a complex relationship with food and children are no different. Parents are a part of the relationship, but this study shows they are only a small part of what determines what and how we eat. It also shows that this relationship is becoming less strong as our society progresses. The weakening relationship could exist for many reasons, including: the growing independence of children, changing parenting styles, changes in our food system, increases in the amount of working mothers or changes in our home and social environments. An anecdotal article about award winning chefs and their kids from the Baltimore Sun recently, would attest to parent’s lack of influence. In the article, even James Beard award winning Chefs lunchbox concoctions can’t compete with lunchables. Read More >

Meatless Monday Launches at Johns Hopkins University

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

Banners welcome students

Banners welcome students

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. Read More >

Better Beef, It’s What’s For Lunch? Kids in Four of the Nation’s Largest School Districts Are Served Sustainably Produced Meats

It looks like the “Eat less meat, eat better meat” motto, first coined by sustainable cattle rancher and author Nicolette Hahn Niman, is catching on. According to School Food FOCUS, a national initiative dedicated to helping urban school districts buy healthier, more sustainable and locally sourced food, four of the nation’s largest school districts launched their own “Better Beef Days.”

According to a School Food FOCUS spokesperson, Meredith Modzelewski, Denver Public Schools, Portland Public Schools, Oakland Unified School District and San Diego Unified School District, decided to serve sustainably raised beef to students this week to coincide with National School Lunch Week.

Modzelewski says the food service directors for each of the districts came up with idea on their own following a School Food FOCUS brainstorming session organized to help schools find ways to purchase healthier poultry and bread products.

“It all started with school food service directors who wanted to talk with producers of grass-fed beef,” says Modzelewski.  “This was really a grassroots effort,” added Modzelewski. [no pun intended] While not every district was able to source grass-fed beef, all the “better” meat purchased – ranges from local and grass-fed to antibiotic-free, added hormone-free and preservative-free.

I’m particularly excited to see that the Oakland School District, which adopted its own Meatless Monday campaign this year, is also taking part in the “Better Beef Days.” Some may think these initiatives send mixed messages to kids. I disagree. In fact, (I can’t believe I’m saying this), even the National Pork Board noted in a Chicago Times article last month that Meatless Monday serves as, “a message of moderation and quality.” Read More >

NPR’s Morning Edition Focuses on Meatless Monday

nprlogo_138x46Some 14 million listeners tuned in this morning to hear National Public Radio’s most popular program, Morning Edition, give extensive coverage to the Meatless Monday campaign. The 8-1/2 minute segment, “Campaign Aims To Make Meatless Mondays Hip,” included an interview with Meatless Monday Founder, Sid Lerner. Reporter Allison Aubrey accompanied Lerner as he visited Dovetail, a popular New York City restaurant that has adopted Meatless Monday, and interviewed patrons sampling the offerings on the meatless menu.

The Meatless Monday Campaign was developed in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for a Livable Future. The goal of the campaign is to reduce saturated fat consumption by 15 percent by forgoing meat one day a week.

Baltimore School District Food Survey Reveals Parents agree with the District’s initiative to provide Healthier Options for Their Kids

fruits and vegetablesAs the Baltimore City Public Schools system continues the transformation of its food service for more than 80,000 kids (see food revolution), a new survey reveals that students and parents are hungry for more. Melissa Mahoney, the districts “top chef”, nutritionist and dietitian , sent out the survey to measure opinions about the ongoing changes and what they’d like to see in the future. Some of the biggest changes include the introduction of Meatless Monday menu options, fresh local fruits, and the creation of the Great Kids Farm as an education center focused on food and agriculture.

The survey link was presented to parents and students on the March, April and May school menus that are sent home in addition to being permanently placed on the “What you need to know” section of the district website.  Parents and students were encouraged complete a web-based survey reflecting their opinions about current menu items and preferences not only for future specific menu items, but attitudes about how the district should be focusing its initiatives. Read More >

‘Diet for a Hot Planet’ Explores Links between Diet and Climate Change

diet-for-a-hot-planet_cover1Anna Lappé’s new book Diet for a Hot Planet is critical. It is critical because it helps fill a significant gap in the literature that was previously identified by the Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Future.

And thus, in an accessible and comprehensive manner, Diet for a Hot Planet is critical to understanding how inextricably linked food is with climate change. But to do so, Lappé conveys that we, as the reader, must understand: (1) the food-life-cycle, from its roots in the ground to going back to the ground as waste and (2) that “we are not bystanders.”

The food life-cycle and its connection with climate change

Diet for a Hot Planet emphasizes that the global food system is connected to climate change “within nearly every sector of our economy;” from waste and wastewater to our energy supply to transportation to industry to forestry to building structures to agriculture. Throughout the book, it becomes clear how “the entire global food chain may account for roughly one third of what’s heating our planet.”

Not all of the climate impact from food is related to livestock. Yet, with 70% of all agricultural land tied up in livestock production, red meat and dairy products may account for as much as 48% of the global warming effect. Lappé’s book underscores the importance of thinking about the journey from livestock to edible meat production, especially regarding methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions; that, she teaches us, has a much greater negative impact on global warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). Read More >

Eat Less Meat, Eat Better Meat

Nicolette Hahn Niman

The list of Meatless Monday supporters continues to grow across the globe, and surprisingly to some, many of the latest enthusiasts make their living either cooking meat, such as chef Mario Batali or producing it, like rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. What makes Meatless Monday so successful is its simple and inclusive message which promotes moderation with the goal of improving public health and the health of the planet.

Nicolette and her husband Bill run the BN Ranch in Northern California near the seaside raising beef cattle on pasture and heritage turkeys. Bill knows a thing or two about ranching. He founded the famous Niman Ranch Inc. known for its sustainable and humanely raised meats. Nicolette is a Renaissance woman of sorts—new mom, writer, environmental lawyer, and interestingly, a vegetarian.

I recently was able to catch Nicolette for a few minutes by phone to ask her why she and Bill support Meatless Monday. She made it clear that she didn’t have much time; she was in the midst of a writing project, running the ranch (Bill was traveling) and taking care of her 14-month-old son who I could hear in the background chatting and occasionally clinking the keys of their piano. Knowing that time was short; I got straight to the point:

RL: A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Meatless Monday campaign is promoting the demise of all meat production, while it has always maintained that its message is simply one of moderation and inclusion of omnivores and vegetarians alike. As a rancher yourself, what would you say to any farmer who is threatened by the MM campaign?

NHN: Bill and I are very supportive of the Meatless Monday campaign and here’s why: We think that to really improve the way food is being produced and the way people are eating in this country people should eat less meat but eat better meat. All food from animals—meat, dairy, fish, eggs—should be treated as something special. Anyone who is raising food animals in the traditional healthy way, without relying on industrial methods, drugs and chemicals, is someone who will benefit from people embracing that approach. We think the Meatless Monday campaign is part of a shift in attitudes about meat, towards something that is precious not something that is consumed without thought or in enormous quantities. Read More >

When Famous Meat Eaters Adopt Meatless Monday, “You Know Something is Happening”

When super-chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, self proclaimed lover of all forms of pork, decided to join the Meatless Monday movement, Washington Post food writer Jane Black took notice. In an article published today, she wrote, “when Mario Batali starts to push people to eat their vegetables, you know something is happening.”

Black does an excellent job of laying out the many issues surrounding the public health campaign’s call for everyone to cut meat out of their diet just one day a week. The current Meatless Monday campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets by about 15 percent. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) serves as a scientific advisor for the campaign. CLF recognizes that by adopting Meatless Monday individuals can improve their health and potentially reduce demand for meat products, particularly industrially produced meat, which use huge amounts of natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks. Read More >

Meatless Monday: A Campaign Rooted in Public Health

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health embraced the Meatless Monday campaign back in 2003, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has proudly served as the national campaign’s scientific advisor ever since. Today I welcome and laud The Johns Hopkins Hospital for launching its own Meatless Monday campaign. In an effort to promote the health benefits of eating more grains, fruits and vegetables the “Wellness Corner” in the Hospital’s main cafeteria is cutting out meat and serving only vegetarian options on Mondays. (Meat options will still be available in other parts of the cafeteria.) The national Meatless Monday campaign’s primary focus is to reduce the consumption of saturated fat by 15%, following the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in 2000. Read More >