Meatless Mondays


Analiese Haag, Reporter

Many PE classes are assigning wellness check-ins as a google form during virtual learning in an effort to get people to focus on their wellbeing. On these check-ins teachers ask about students’ water intake, diet, exercise, and emotional well being. However, one thing that isn’t mentioned is the consumption of meat. Meat intake would be good for students to take into account because red and processed meat has been linked to numerous health issues and the production of meat has environmental impacts. For these reasons a program called Meatless Monday was created in 2003; it is a global program meant to encourage people to give up meat one day a week. This is not as drastic as giving up meat entirely, but it could still improve one’s health while also helping the environment. 

Meatless Monday was a concept originally brought about as an effort to save food for the troops during WWI. At this time, roughly 10% of Americans pledged to partake in this program. It was reintroduced by Sid Lerner who partnered with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The new purpose of it was to solve the problem of overconsumption of food, but particularly meat.  The movement has grown immensely since it started. Now over forty countries are participating in it and many celebrities are promoting it. Sir Paul McCartney is a huge advocate for the nonprofit. Hundreds of restaurants are also participating, including Subway and Chipotle, by introducing more meatless options to their menu and highlighting those options. There are thousands of schools in the U.S. partaking, including the Los Angeles and the New York City school district. These schools have found that the program is cost-neutral and participation in meals on Mondays has remained stable. The Morris Hills Regional District has already adopted Wellness Wednesdays, which is a similar program that encourages eating more vegetables on that day of the week. It is very important to introduce these programs in K-12 school because “when brains are young, it’s the best opportunity to set healthy habits.” (New Exercise Guidelines, 4) Morris Knolls students became familiar with Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist, from an article assigned by several physical education teachers during virtual learning. Although the younger one starts participating the better, it is never too late to adopt a slightly healthier diet.
WWII Propaganda
Sir Paul McCartney

The average American eats 15% more meat then what is recommended (Meatless Monday, par 2).  Overconsumption of meat (in particular red and processed) leads to increased risk for type 2 diabetes, strokes, some cancers, and heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of deaths in the US, cancer is the second, strokes are the fifth, and diabetes is the seventh. Clearly these diseases are causing immense suffering in the United States, so it is important to start reducing meat consumption as soon as possible in order to bring these numbers down. Furthermore, obesity is on the rise and introducing Meatless Mondays can help decrease it by making children more aware of what they are eating as well as giving them healthier options. Finally, a healthy diet can lead to an overall better mood, and proven is to help children with mental health problems manage their symptoms (Segal, par 2).
bbc’s map

Not only is too much meat bad for human health, it is terrible for the planet. There is a lot that goes into each ounce of meat. Between the land that the livestock needs, the machines that are used in the process, the water needed, all of the packaging, and the transportation, meat production is not an efficient source of nutrition. Due to the complexity of the process, animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gasses. Even worse, it is the leading cause of deforestation, water use, air pollution, and biodiversity loss. Up to one million plant and animal species are facing extinction due to humans, and much of this is because of livestock taking up 38.5% of all viable land (Rafferty, par 6). One can make the argument that since food is necessary these negative effects are unpreventable. However this is false; meat is responsible for more than 50% of food related greenhouse gas emissions, and it only provides 20% of the calories people consume. Thus, it’s negative impact on the environment is disproportionate to the energy it provides, making it a worse food choice.
Rainforest Destruction

Although all meat causes issues, cattle have the worst effect on the environment. Cattles are ruminant livestock, which means that they contain microbes called methanogens to help them digest more plants, and as a byproduct they produce methane. Methane is twenty five times as potent as CO2; with one and a half billion cows and bulls in the world the amount of methane they produce each year from belching is equivalent to two billion metric tons of CO2. Furthermore, cattle is a driving force of the destruction of many rainforests, including the Amazon. Brazil is the second largest producer of beef and leather. Both of these products come from cattle, which need to graze in fertile land. Thus, as the industry grows, they need more land, and a prime place is the beautiful rainforest that has not been inhabited. Around 70% of the former forest in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing. The only way people in America can try to solve this problem is by reducing the demand.

It is important to recognize the nutritional value of meat, since it supplies the body with vitamins, minerals, and helps people maintain a healthy weight. Luckily, there are many great alternatives to meat that can fulfill these nutritional needs. Some different sources of protein are tofu, tempeh, soybeans, beans, lentils, chickpeas, eggs, dairy milk, soy milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, hemp, quinoa, textured vegetable protein (TVP), nuts (ex. walnuts, peanuts), and seeds (ex. sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds). Some other foods, such as egg plan, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, and jackfruit, can not completely substitute for meat with their protein content but do provide a lot of other nutrients. The list continues to expand with new creations like the plant based burger. While the veggie burger is another great option, it contains half the amount of protein of the recommended per meal and which the plant based burger meets. Even McDonald’s has a plant based burger called P.L.T. plant lettuce tomato which they tested in Ontario Canada and are slowly bringing it to more of their restaurants. There are so many different options, and the list is only growing as more people shift their diet.
Plant based V. beef burger

Although the Coronavirus outbreak is an atrocity that has unfortunately led to the closure of schools across the country, it has done some good things. There is now an emphasis on health across the globe, and it is important to recognize all of the different aspects that play a role in peoples’ wellbeing such as: personal hygiene, exercise, sleep, mental health, and diet. This awareness combined with the extra free time that many people have, creates a perfect opportunity to try some new healthy foods. Overall, Meatless Mondays are a simple thing that is beneficial to both human’s health, and mother nature.

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