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Lean and Green (and Meatless) in Philly

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Philadelphia’s schools up the ante—and nutritional value of school lunches—on Meatless Monday with its brand new Lean and Green initiative.

We all know the deal: protein is good for you, saturated fat, not so much—a primary factor in meat’s demise in popularity among nutrition experts. Sure, meat has its dietary upside, but unless you’re pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, chances are you’re eating too much. And, so are your children.

Recent numbers show that Americans consume approximately 185 pounds of chicken, turkey, pork, lamb and beef annually. While that doesn’t seem like much over the course of 12 months, overconsumption (more than 18 ounces per week of red meat, in particular) can clog your arteries and increase the risk of colon cancer. That’s the “not so (good) much” part.

Now that summer is behind us, and for us carnivores, its abundance of grilled burgers, ribs, hot dogs and chicken, sticking to the guidelines should be a lot easier. And though I did make it through the first Monday of September with nary a bite of meat, I suspect many others did not. The good news, is that you’ve got another 51 (+/-) chances to jump on the Meatless Monday bandwagon. And, to help spread the word about its next school cafeteria rendition: Lean and Green.

If you haven’t heard about this initiative yet, it’s an effort by Philadelphia Public Schools to tastefully tempt students to eat more meat-free meals—not just on Mondays. While menus are still being played with, students can expect more plant-based foods and hearty, but healthy complex carb-protein-veggie combinations such as bean burritos, pasta with marinara sauce and vegetable calzones (yum!).

Health isn’t the only benefit of decreasing consumption (and preparation) of meat, it’s also an effective means of reducing schools’ carbon footprints, positively impacting animal welfare (as it relates to factory farming), and helping more families discover alternatives to foods that lead to chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

As you might expect, this is welcome news to The Humane League, most significantly, its Philadelphia Director Rachel Atcheson who’s been busy shouting the news from the rooftops (and through the media) since the program was announced in late May. The Humane League has been proactive in reducing meat consumption, animal cruelty and environmental damage with its once-a-week meat “vacation,” also adhered to by Philadelphia’s schools. In the City of Brotherly Love, and across the country, #MeatlessMonday has become a weekly habit and spurred a lot of recipe sharing between vegetarians and carnivores. Just throw that hashtag in your browser, and in seconds you’ll have more Lean and Green recipes than time to make them.

“Encouraging students to take a holiday from meat one day a week with Lean and Green Days will do wonders for their health and academic performance.” —Rachel Atcheson, Philadelphia Director, The Humane League.

To get in the mood at home, here are a few recipes for you and the kids. The charred tomato soup is a great way to use up this summer’s final harvest.

Happy (green) eating! (Click on the photos to get to the recipes.)

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Meatless Monday in Philadelphia Schools

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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.”  Continue reading