Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools

Lou Ryan, Human League intern and Meatless Monday advocate Hot off the press, a guest post by full-time student, activist and Humane League intern, Lou Ryan. Ms. Ryan currently studies professional writing at Kutztown University, where she has written a number of health-related articles for student-run newspaper The Keystone. We connected on Twitter, after I retweeted a #meatlessmonday post. She is helping the Humane League promote Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools and well, I think that is a great cause to support. If you’d like to learn even more about this initiative after reading the information provided here, you can reach Ms. Ryan at lou@thehumaneleague.com and follow her on Twitter @TheHumaneLeague. And, if you’re in favor, well, please sign the petition.

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Skip the Meat, Save the World: Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools
by Lou Ryan

Imagine the positive impact we could make on the world around us if we got one of the ten largest school districts in the U.S. to serve plant-based meals every Monday. Now double that impact, because one such district—Los Angeles Unified Public Schools—has already signed on, and a second is on its way.

Nonprofit organization The Humane League is running a campaign to get the School District of Philadelphia, the eighth largest district in the U.S. by enrollment,[1] to join countless other districts, municipalities, and companies across the nation participating in Meatless Monday.

In 2003, the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health started promoting Meatless Monday as a public health initiative. The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Oct. 17, 2013 recognizing the benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables and urging city residents to participate in Meatless Monday.[2]

Why Meatless Monday, other than for the sake of alliteration? The resolution cites a multitude of reasons ranging from sustainability to health. Take, for example: “According to the United Nations, ‘Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,’ and the livestock sector is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” 

Indeed, the industrialized animal agriculture systems that have grown rapidly in response to our overwhelming demand for meat over the last few decades are leading to issues such as climate change, deforestation, and water pollution. Arable land that could be growing food for the poor and hungry is instead growing feed for cattle and other food animals.

Another major reason for Meatless Monday involves the health of our city’s children. Philadelphia’s teenage obesity rate is 4.3 percent above the national average, the highest of the ten largest cities in the U.S., and the greasy, meat-laden foods served in school cafeterias aren’t helping. According to the resolution, “The American Dietetic Association recognizes that a vegetarian diet decreases the risk for a variety of health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and various cancers.”

Plant-based meals are more nutrient dense and naturally lower in cholesterol (which is only found in meat, dairy, and eggs) and saturated fat. Serving appealing, protein-rich options such as hearty vegetable chili and black bean burritos can give students the opportunity to discover new dishes while learning about the countless benefits of a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

All that is needed to get the Philadelphia School District on board with Meatless Mondays is a larger push from Philadelphia residents. The district is currently in the middle of contract negotiations, making this the best time to make a small, yet powerful, change.

Please visit PhillyMeatlessMonday.com to learn more and to sign the petition urging the School District of Philadelphia to join districts around the country in implementing Meatless Monday.

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