Meatless Mondays offer options to cut out meat once a week

By Leslie King | Emory Report | Nov. 6, 2013

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Better health, more money and interesting dishes are on the menu for campus diners who choose to participate in Meatless Mondays.

On Mondays, more campus diners are going meatless.  

Emory Dining has launched a Meatless Monday campaign, which rolled out at Oxford College on the first day of the academic year and most recently at the Cox Hall food court, Dobbs Market and Rollins Cafe. And Emory Healthcare has been offering Meatless Mondays since summer.  

"Our goal is to promote both health and environmental benefits of choosing a meatless diet," says Dave Furhman, senior director of campus dining. "We strive to provide more vegan and vegetarian options on Mondays and showcase those options through various communications channels, including cooking demos and sampling."

Furhman had the idea to launch Meatless Mondays, having seen what a success it was at Johns Hopkins University, his previous employer. Meatless Monday is also a global movement.

Interesting proteins, from grains and legumes, and dishes using organic soy such as tempeh and tofu are now on offer for diners.

"From a nutritionist's standpoint, I am interested in what are the reasons students are interested in meatless Mondays. Is it for health purposes? For environmental sustainability? Animal welfare? Economic reasons?" asks Carol Kelly, coordinator of nutrition education at Emory's Student Health and Counseling Services, where a PowerPoint on the meatless benefits has been showing in the waiting area.

There are potential benefits:  more dietary fiber; less saturated fat; nutrients that are plant-based sources of protein; and of course, economics, Kelly says.

Anthropology professor and Emory sustainability leader Peggy Barlett, also on the Meatless Monday committee, looks at going meatless from the viewpoint of the environmental impact of meat production. "Meat production is generally recognized to leave a bigger footprint on the Earth," she says, using much more energy and more water.  

Barlett notes the cost benefits of going meatless allow for more innovations in the dining hall offerings, experimenting with new menus and cooking. She also says some other schools have used the savings from less meat to fund other sustainable activities.  

Meatless Mondays aren't just in the dining areas; they're also in the classroom.  

Rollins School of Public Health professor Iris Smith's class is basing a research project on outcomes of the meatless option.  

In Smith's class, "Conduct of Evaluation and Research," students are required to do research and an evaluation on a community-based program. The project involves learning how to construct a survey according to what the client wants, in this case, the client being the Meatless Monday committee. Smith thinks the project "fits very nicely" for the class requirements. "It's reasonable, it challenges the students, it's relatively straightforward. It teaches an evaluation process. The stakeholders are local, which facilitates communication," she says. Learning at the point of consumption, she calls it.

The students will not address the health benefits of Meatless Monday in this project, largely because the time element for the project is limited to a semester.

Dana Heyl, a master of public health candidate in Smith's class, says, "We will be pilot testing a survey on a small group of students about their awareness of Meatless Mondays and their motivations for participating.

"The survey will be sent to the listserv of Rollins students as well as a student listserv provided by through the Office of Sustainability. The survey will open on Nov. 6, and we plan to have the results analyzed and written by early December."

"Once we get the report from the Rollins students, we can tweak the program where we need to," says nutritionist Kelly.

Furhman sees this as creating a healthier environment for a healthier person.  

All say they'd like to see this initiative continue indefinitely.

"We're not being dogmatic. We provide choices. We provide education. We provide options," says Kelly.