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ETHS Ditches Hamburgers for Veggie Burgers On ‘Meatless Mondays’

Along with a handful of other high schools and colleges in Illinois, Evanston Township High School will participate in the Humane Society’s “Meatless Monday” campaign.

Beginning this January, Evanston Township High School students will see more black bean burgers and tofu stir-fries in the lunch line, when their cafeteria joins the Humane Society’s “Meatless Monday” campaign. 

Roughly 2,000 institutions including hospitals, schools and colleges have implemented some kind of Meatless Monday policy in their cafeterias since the initiative began in 2003, according to Kenny Torrella, an outreach coordinator for the Humane Society. Locally, those institutions include Northwestern University, Loyola University, DePaul University and the Rockford Public Schools.  

“Meatless Monday is really an international movement,” Torrella says. “It encourages kids to avoid eating animals in order to help the planet, animals and their health.”  

Torrella first approached Evanston Township High School this summer to see if they were interested in bringing the program to campus. Kim Minestra, director of nutrition services, says she liked the fact that it gave the school an opportunity to educate students about their health.  

“I’m not a vegetarian, and I’m not some strong advocate, but I think there is some importance to limiting your meat consumption,” Minestra said. “You don’t need to have a hamburger every day, and you probably shouldn’t.”

Of the 12 to 15 entrees made daily, the cafeteria will begin serving 50 percent vegetarian options on Mondays, according to Minestra. The move won’t involve any additional cost, she said, since the cafeteria simply swapped some entrees for others.

Meatless Mondays will also have an educational component. The Humane Society created a video promoting the concept, which Minestra has asked teachers to play in their classrooms.

“I’ve sent it to all the staff, and many of the teachers have agreed to display it in their classrooms,” she said. “So when students walk in on that Monday, hopefully they’ll understand what it means.”

The cafeteria will also display banners explaining Meatless Monday and pass out fliers from the Humane Society, listing the meatless options students can choose from.

Approximately sixty-five percent of ETHS students buy something from the cafeteria each day, according to Minestra. The other thirty-five percent bring their own lunch or, if they’re juniors or seniors, go out to eat. While the initiative didn’t come from the students, Minestra says she has heard concerns from students that the cafeteria doesn’t offer enough vegetarian options.

Torrella hopes the initiative will reach not just the converted vegetarians, but also educate all students about how meat is produced, what the environmental side effects of that production are, and how meat consumption can impact human health.

“When it comes to animal welfare, the vast majority of meat and dairy products in the U.S. come from animals raised in factory farms,” Torrella says. “In some cases, they’re even unable to move around freely. They can’t even move around or flap their wings.”

“There’s also the health,” he adds. “Studies have found correlations with high meat consumption and obesity, heart disease.”

But the main thing the Humane Society wants to educate students about is the environmental issues connected to meat production, he says.

“The United Nations, the Sierra Club and other environmental nonprofits, they’re recognizing the impact that high meat consumption has on the environment,” he says. “And this is mainly because farm animals produce methane and carbon dioxide. Factory farms require a lot of water and land.”

Torrella says he has just begun approaching institutions in the Chicago area, and hopes to bring the campaign to other schools around the area.

Meatless Mondays will begin at Evanston Township High School on Monday, Jan. 7. 

millie December 07, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Did they do a study on what TEENS like for lunch. Encourage them to exercise more don't force them to eat what they don't like
Jim December 08, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Another fall-in-line with the socialists thing for Evanston. How about teaching the little darlings about how to exercise personal responsibility in regard to their health. And don't forget that humans create gas as well especially when they eat vegetables. But maybe this is a good thing. If the do-gooders destroy the meat industry, the price of meat will come down so all of the unemployed industry workers will have something to eat. "Moderation in all things" was aristotle's admonition in making YOUR OWN CHOICES in life, not having them made for you by self rightious dictators.
victoria smith December 08, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Now for sure my son won't eat lunch. He does like black beans, but he won't concider that for lunch! I don't know about any of your kids, but mine has been complaining about the food at school for three years now. On the occasion when he is real hungry he eats a pb&j. I always brought my lunch to school and I had to stop and think, what was offered when I was there? Meat loaf, hamburgers, chilli mac, grilled cheese, sloppy joe's, egg salad, tuna fish,lasagna, mac&cheese and these great home made cookies, just to name a few. I know that when I was there for a meeting I went into the caffiteria and browsed around items and ended up with a excellent cobb salad. There were allot of items that I thought looked really good. According to one son he loved the lunches, second son not so much. I had to laugh when I saw the fruit icy machine, which by the way is a big hit amongst most of the students there. You can't please everyone and I am sure that there are many students that are vegans who will love the new change, but for most I don't think so. I have a feeling that this is going to be a waste of food. Have they ever taken a survey on what the kids would like to see on the lunch menu? Guess my son's lunch account won't be depleted any time soon. Good point Jim about "gas". I was laughing when I pictured the "musical notes" in classes.
Donald Fisher December 08, 2012 at 02:50 PM
The nutritional arguments in favor of the changes should be mentioned. They are much lower in fat and much higher in fiber and protein than the standard alternatives.
Ahzea December 08, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Awesome! This will not only be better for the students, but also the environment!
Ahzea December 08, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Thanks for mentioning, Donald!
Dan Morgan December 08, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Jim, did you miss the point about there *still* being lots of meat available? This is simply a program to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of high meat consumption. The U.S. is #2 in global meat consumption, and it's wreaking havoc on our public health (look around), the environment (every environmental org says we should eat less meat) and animals (have you seen what factory farms looks like?). In case you forgot, the point of schooling is to educate people, and part of that is about our current world problems, some of which can be alleviated if we all ate a little less meat - you know, in moderation like Aristotle said, and not every meal, every day?
Dan Morgan December 08, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Hey Victoria, if you read more closely, there will still be lots of meat-based dishes available for those who don't want to try the meat-free options.
Jim December 08, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Dan, Point well taken. Can we also teach about rules for successful living like TheTen Commandments? I wonder if The Humane Society would support that concept. I am a libertarian and really do not need coercion to think and do the right thing both regarding my fellow humans or animals. Eating less meat is a no brainier from a health point of view but I suspect that The Humane Society has other motives. I also wonder of they would support sending the meat not eaten here to protein deprived areas of the world.

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