Ithaca College has been boosting its vegetarian options by devoting Monday to an international Meatless Monday campaign.
The Humane Society of the United States has recognized Ithaca College Dining Services for launching its own version of a Meatless Monday program last semester.
The health-oriented program aims to encourage students to eat little or no meat on Mondays. Last semester, the three dining halls on campus began to offer more vegetarian options and reduced the meat items on the menu.
According to Kristie Middleton, corporate outreach manager of the Humane Society of the United States, certificates of recognition were sent to schools that acknowledged that they would be participating in a Meatless Monday program in 2011.
“The whole idea is to make sure that vegetarian and vegan options are available and then to use social media or in-house promotions to encourage students just to give them a try,” she said.
Meatless Monday is an international initiative run by The Monday Campaigns, which are associated with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The campaign dedicates the first day of every week to healthier living by giving up meat for one day.
Jeff Scott, dining services general manager at the college, said dining services has made signs, changed food options and updated its social media websites to promote the program.
“Some of the items that are in our vegan or vegetarian menu, we’ve just kind of brought to the front of the line to promote it,” he said. “Even if you chose not to have that, it got you thinking.”
According to Middleton, in 2003, Meatless Monday founder Sid Lerner saw how preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption were. He then decided to introduce Meatless Mondays as a health-awareness campaign.
“He teamed up with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and they identified changes in diet as the best way people can help try to fight chronic diseases that are directly linked to the way that Americans are eating,” she said.
The college is not alone in taking part in the program. Schools such as the University of Florida and Yale University participate in variations of the Meatless Monday program.
Scott said eliminating meat completely from the menu will probably not be an option at the college because of student backlash. He said that a few years ago, to celebrate Earth Day, the Campus Center dining hall served no meat, and there were many student complaints.
“Maybe we forced it in, or we didn’t do enough research in advance before trying it,” he said. “It seemed like a cool thing to do, but people were a little upset about it.”
Scott said getting students to consider eating vegetarian and thinking consciously about what they are eating is the main point of the program.
The college’s new program has not changed the dining halls’ financial expenditures, he said.
“This program has been cost neutral for us to run,” Scott said. “The focus has been to raise awareness of eating less meat and eating healthier. We also hope this will help to lower our carbon footprint.”
Middleton said there are many health benefits to giving up meat for just one day.
“Eating meat and other animal ingredients is directly linked to heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes and other health issues,” she said. “Eating less or no meat at all is good for our health as long as we have a balanced diet.”
Sophomore Matt Kurz said he first learned about Meatless Monday after he saw a sign advertising it in the Campus Center dining hall.
Kurz said that he is aware of the heath issues that can be averted with a Meatless Monday, but he avoids them by eating lean meats.
“When I eat meats, I eat lean meats, and I don’t eat all the saturated fat meats, so I don’t find it an issue,” he said.
Stephanie Piech, the sustainability coordinator for the college, said the program gives everyone the opportunity to make a healthy change in their diet.
“It’s easy — you can do it just once a week, or you can challenge yourself to not eat meat more than that,” she said. “You can participate no matter who you are.”