The country’s second largest school district has gone meatless on Mondays. Back in November, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution that urges people to observe Mondays without meat, bolstering the profile of the Meatless Monday movement. The Los Angeles Unified School District has taken the recommendation seriously and no longer serves meat in its cafeterias on the first day of the school week.
Sure, students are free to brown bag it with a ham and cheese sandwich, but considering that the LA school district serves more than 650,000 meals daily, this is a sizeable meatless Monday initiative.
Whether you’re vegetarian or not, this seems like it should be heralded as good news. The benefits from both an animal rights and an environmental perspective are straightforward. Perhaps less obvious though, is the potential influence that going meatless weekly will have on kids, exposing them to alternative foods and helping them understand that meat is not a necessity when it comes to a balanced meal. Given how deeply engrained our eating habits are, helping kids see alternate ways of eating early in life could be a very powerful influence.
And as we saw with recycling back in the 80s, kids are a powerful force when it comes to driving social change. When recycling programs were introduced in schools and kids learned the benefits of recycling, they went home and encouraged (okay, nagged... but clearly effectively nagged) their parents to get on the blue bin wagon. Recycling has since become so pervasive that most homes now have a rainbow of bins for all kinds of recycled materials, attributable largely to a youth movement decades ago.
Could eating veg be this generation’s recycling? It’s hard to say, but kids in LA are off to a good start.
Today, kids in LA schools were served a whole grain crust vegetarian calzone with a side of baby carrots and a fruit cup. I wouldn’t say it’s the healthiest option out there—one might hope that a vegetarian meal would feature vegetables a little more prominently—but it’s a step in the right direction and on par health-wise with the other meals served up during the rest of the week (think pulled pork sandwiches and turkey burgers).
LA has long led the charge the healthier cafeteria options. They eliminated chocolate milk and even have a fruit and vegetable of the month. In March the vegetable of the month is brussels sprouts; arguably bringing the famously dreaded sprout into cafeterias is an even bolder move than going meatless.
Hopefully the LA district’s meatless ambitions will catch on across the country, exposing more and more kids to a less carnivorous lifestyle. It might seem like a small step, but for hundreds of thousands of kids, it could be a very influential one.