Meatless Mondays campaign encounters pushback from students

March 3, 2015, 9:28 p.m.
(Courtesy of Maria Deloso)
(Courtesy of Maria Deloso)

The campaign for Meatless Mondays, which strives to reduce meat consumption and is headed by different student groups this year, is gaining traction in dining halls, cafés and Row houses across campus, but not without student opposition to food choices they are ultimately paying for out-of-pocket.

Meatless Monday campaigns have taken different forms, including visiting Xanadu during one of its meatless meals, signing a pledge by the student group People for Animal Welfare (PAW) and considering “flexitarian” alternatives at Forbes Café.

“The challenge is getting people to view what seems like a personal choice as something that ‘yes, it is a personal choice, but it is also about how what I decide to do personally impacts everybody else,’” said David Kay ‘16, who is the president of PAW.

The taste of meatless food and protein deficiency were two key reasons residents at Xanadu feared a transition to Meatless Mondays. However, Ryan Schumacher ’15, who is currently Xanadu’s kitchen manager, maintains that meatless food still meets dietary needs.

“There are still people who say they want meat at every meal,” Schumacher said. “One of the residents says he just wants only meat and grains.”

Schumacher initially made the executive decision to implement Meatless Mondays without student input. Since much of the house opposed the way he handled the change, Schumacher sent out surveys to hold a vote.

Approximately 66 percent of residents in the house were in favor of having two meatless meals on different days each week in exchange for using saved money to purchase better quality meats. The remaining 33 percent of the votes was split between liking Meatless Mondays in their existing form — that is, two meatless meals on Mondays — or just wanting meat at every meal.

“I really wanted to be intentional about having a hand in what our chef cooks, so that the residents feel like they can have input and feel like they can have agency over what they’re eating,” Schumacher said.

He will be holding a re-vote this week in response to residents’ concerns.

Schumacher also expressed concern that one sub-adequate, meatless meal seemed to be enough for students to believe that Meatless Mondays are generally a bad idea and that residents might overlook successful dishes that they had not realized were meatless.

Pushback against Meatless Mondays is nothing new. In previous years, R&DE saw students boycotting Meatless Mondays at Florence Moore Dining. Two years ago, the Green Living Council (GLC) saw more success in running an informational campaign in Ricker called Mix-It-Up Mondays to encourage application of sustainability to one’s diet.

Conversations about reducing meat consumption have also become a part of discussions on sustainability within GLC, PAW and the Office of Sustainability, among other groups. Meatless Mondays advocates compare eating one of Arrillaga’s half mushroom/half meat burgers instead of a 100 percent meat burger to skipping out on showering for two weeks, in terms of the amount of water saved.

Student activists on campus, such as GLC co-president Isabelle Barnard ’16, recognize that personal and cultural factors are also responsible for shaping people’s food choices. Consideration of cultural factors influenced two student groups’ decision to host a cooking workshop at Columbae with vegan cookbook author Bryant Terry.

“For [Terry], he just felt that people in low-income neighborhoods didn’t either have access or didn’t have knowledge [of available healthy food choices], and no one was really connecting it back to their roots, specifically for African-American youth,” said Maria Deloso ’15, co-founder of Appetite for Change.

Deloso and Rohisha Adke ’15 changed Appetite for Change from a vegetarian group into one that sought to be inclusive. Their goal is for people to think more about their animal consumption choices — whether that be the environment, factory farming, worker rights, animal welfare or health.

Other groups on campus are pushing for Meatless Mondays in consideration of the pain and suffering inflicted on factory farm animals that has become standard practice.

“For us, the way animals are treated on these factory farms is just horrific,” Kay said. “It’s a weird double standard: If we castrated a dog without painkillers, boiled the dog alive or kept the dog in a crate for his entire life, that would be a felony in all 50 states.”

PAW has already garnered approximately 380 signatures in its more recent Meatless Mondays pledge session. PAW, Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE), the Office of Sustainability and the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences are a few co-sponsors of this week’s Green Week hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), who also hosted a Meatless Monday dinner on Monday night.

The aim of AKA’s Green Week is to start conversations on sustainable living, carbon footprint reduction and climate change. On Saturday, they are hosting a zero-waste cookout and gardening event at Ujamaa garden.


Contact Alexis Garduno at agarduno ‘at’

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