Are Meatless Mondays in public schools a panacea?
Or is the campaign an unethical experiment on some of our most vulnerable?
In 2019, the New York City mayor announced that all NYC public schools would have “Meatless Mondays.” Earlier this year, current Mayor Eric Adams expanded the program to Fridays.
“Meatless Mondays are good for our students, communities, and the environment,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “Our 1.1 million students are taking the next step towards healthier, more sustainable lives. Our students and educators are truly leaders in this movement, and I salute them!”
But there’s one glaring problem: reducing school children’s meat consumption will hardly impact emissions, nor will it make kids healthier.
If all animals were removed from the United States food system, total U.S. GHG emissions would be reduced by only 2.6%.
New York City Public schools enroll 1,058,888 students or approximately 0.32% of the total population in the United States. 49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools nationwide or approximately 15% of the population.
How much of a dent will meatless Mondays and Fridays in NYC public schools make in emissions? In all U.S. public schools? Negligible, but the consequences could be dire.
"In one voice we talk about fighting childhood obesity, diabetes, yet you go into a school building every day and you see the food that feeds our health care crisis," Mayor Eric Adams said, apparently in regards to the meat this new initiative removed from the public school menu.
And that menu?
A quick look at the October K-8 menu reveals that Mondays and Fridays are still packed with grilled cheese sandwiches, fried mozzarella sticks, and the “healthy,” “vegetarian” bean burritos that took Twitter by storm earlier this year.
Will fried and ultra-processed foods help fight against childhood obesity and diabetes more than roasted meat and vegetables?
Eliminating meat does more harm than good.
A 2005 study conducted by a University of California Davis nutrition scholar, Lindsay Allen, found that among school-age children, those who consumed meat daily dramatically surpassed their vegetarian peers in muscle growth, intelligence, and problem-solving skills.
"The group that received the meat supplements were more active in the playground, more talkative and playful, and showed more leadership skills," Allen said.
Parents who find the idea of eating animals reprehensible might have some tough choices to make, she added. "There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans," she said. “The only way to guarantee that children absorb all the nutrients they need is to feed them meat and fish.”
These findings are not only alarming for school children in general but especially for the 71.9% of those in the NYC public school system who are economically disadvantaged and rely on school lunches for oftentimes the only meal they receive each day.
Removing meat from 40% of children’s school meals is certain to adversely affect their development.
Instead of treating our kids like experiments at the expense of their development, could we use the opportunity to teach them how food reaches their plates? Could we reconnect them with the farmers who nourish them?
Could we show them how they, too, can be stewards of their land and animals and choose a diet that’s healthy, ethical, and sustainable within their local ecosystems without eliminating one of the most nutrient-dense foods on their school menus?
What environmental and health impacts could that have long-term?
Forced Choice Restriction in Promoting Sustainable Food Consumption: Intended and Unintended Effects of the Mandatory Vegetarian Day in Helsinki Schools
Risks and benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets in children
Nutritional and greenhouse gas impacts of removing animals from US agriculture
Adipose Tissue: Physiology to Metabolic Dysfunction
Podcast I’m listening to:
Dietary protein: amount needed, ideal timing, quality, and more with Don Layman, Ph.D. on The Drive by Peter Attia
“Don Layman is a Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has spent the past 40 years investigating the role of dietary protein in muscle protein synthesis. In this episode, Don describes how his decades of research have shaped his thinking around protein, muscle, anabolic factors, metabolism, and more. He explains the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein: what it is, how it came about, and how it should serve only as a guide for the minimum protein necessary for survival rather than as an optimal level of protein intake.”
Kid-Friendly Product I enjoy:
100% Grassfed Beef BoboLinks by Blue Nest Beef
Okay - these are adult-friendly, too, and they’re not only nutrient-dense and delicious but they’re made from beef that comes ONLY from Audubon-certified, bird-friendly American ranches and preserved by traditional, natural fermentation. In other words, kids love them, adult kids love them, and they’re healthy, sustainable, easy on the gut, and delicious on the taste buds. Try some for yourself here and use code BOBO10 to save $10 off your first package.
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