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Green Eggs, Hold the Ham

news_MeatlessMondayUC Santa Cruz dining goes meatless on Mondays
San Francisco and New York City do it; every school in the Baltimore City School District does it; Sir Paul McCartney does it; and now, like four other UC schools, UC Santa Cruz does it, too.

We’re talking about Meatless Monday—a growing movement to cut meat consumption by 15 percent (one day a week), thereby helping to reduce serious environmental stresses, health problems, and resource shortages. Organizations like Meatless Monday and Meat Free Monday (the latter was founded by McCartney and his daughters) are spearheading the campaign, and reminding the world’s omnivores that, according to the United Nations, livestock are the single largest contributor to global warming—spewing even more greenhouse gases than all of the world’s transportation combined.

But why Monday? In addition to reducing an individual’s ecological footprint, there are more synergetic reasons for skipping animal protein on the first of the weekdays. “On Monday we move from the freedom of the weekend back to the structure of work or school,” reads meatlessmonday.com. “We set our intentions for the next six days…studies suggest that we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet.” (This concept is further explained and promoted at healthymonday.org.)

The adoption of Meatless Monday at UCSC has been a gradual process, fueled by student petitioning as well as the school’s own interest in having more organic and environmentally sustainable eateries. Starting in 2009, they hosted their first meatless meals, which would occur for one meal, once a week, at one of the school’s five dining halls. They also offer Beefless Days, in which beef is absent from the menu once a week at one dining hall.

Meatless Monday will turn these partial attempts into a more consistent, considerable effort. The meatless menu will appear at the dining halls on a rotational basis, “so there will always be a Meatless Monday somewhere on campus every week,” says Executive Chef Dwight Collins.

Collins has spent the summer whipping up a menu he hopes even the most devout meat eaters will enjoy. “My goal has been to create menus with the most universal appeal to our students so as not to turn them off from the concept, but actually help them to embrace it for all the right reasons,” he says. “One of those reasons has to be because it tastes good.” In addition to making the usual items vegetarian (the salad, pizza, pasta, burrito and deli bars will all be meat-free), students can dig in to entrées like Portobello parmesan ratatouille, chili and cheese enchiladas, vegan “chicken” cutlets with chipotle cream, Hawaiian Boca Burgers, and much more.

Eric Deardorff, a recent UCSC graduate and the founder of the school’s only vegetarian club, Banana Slugs for Animals (BSA), headed the student pursuit of Meatless Mondays and oversaw the negotiations with Dining Services.

“I suggested that we would have totally plant-based dining halls,” he told Good Times in an April interview. “We would have the most environmentally-friendly dining halls in the world. Think of the marketing capability of that.”

His less pie-in-the-sky ideas were for one completely meatless dining hall, or for all dining halls to do Meatless Monday instead of rotating. Still, BSA  is grateful for the step.

Dining Program Coordinator Candy Berlin has been hard at work to make the school’s eateries as green as possible—no easy feat when preparing more than 20,000 meals per day. Twenty percent of produce served on campus is organic, and 65 percent comes from local sources. (Some is as local as you can get, coming straight from the UCSC farm.) Berlin has also overseen successful waste management efforts, including a composting partnership with Santa Cruz County that diverts more than 85 tons of kitchen scraps per year from landfills. As “your ECOlogical choice for campus dining” (as their tagline goes), UCSC Dining sees Meatless Mondays as their next big step in sustainability.


Learn more about Meatless Monday at meatlessmonday.com and Meat Free Monday at supportmfm.org.
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