In an attempt to get students to think beyond partying and passing classes, UC Davis Dining Services has implemented a program to make students more aware of what they eat.
‘Meatless Monday’ is an idea originally developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health of Baltimore, Md. in 2006. UC Davis Dining Services incorporated the program into their educational plans for the dining commons in 2007 with a focus on personal health.
This past fall quarter the program expanded to include environmental sustainability concerns and how a decrease in meat consumption could affect that.
Dining Services director of nutrition and sustainability Linda Adams clarified a misconception that the program’s title causes many to believe.
“We don’t take meat off the menu,” she said. “It’s simply a public awareness campaign aimed at helping [students] shape their habits for the future by having a higher regard for what they put in their body.”
The program teaches students some of the consequences they face from overconsumption of saturated fats from animal products and processed foods. The new environmental twist also provides some of the math behind the carbon dioxide and water that is saved by eliminating meat from the diet once a week.
Danielle Sales, sustainability manager, acknowledged that there has been mixed reception to the program.
“We just want to get [students] talking and learning more on their own,” she said. “If we can get consumers to connect with their food, then that challenges them to think more critically about food in general, not just meat. You don’t have to be vegetarian to be healthy.”
According to Sales, the program presently offers students the opportunity to pledge to go meatless every Monday. Since last fall, they have received 336 pledges, roughly one-third of their 1,000-student goal.
Sophomore neurobiology, physiology and behavior major Akshaya Ramanujam believes the program is an effective method for promoting vegetarianism as an option. Ramanujam, a strict vegetarian of eight years, lamented what she sees as limited non-meat options on the DC’s menu.
“I think [the program] is a good way to talk about how to be healthy,” she said. “It’d be nice if the DC had [a meatless meal] once a week because I’d feel like there was more of a choice.”
That could be a future development for the program, Sales said.
With UC Santa Cruz already eliminating meat from the menu one day out of the week from one of their dining commons, and with UCLA and UC Santa Barbara considering taking beef off of their menus, it could only be a matter of time until UC Davis follows suit.
“It would be really exciting to see more variety for what I can eat,” said Pooja Mehta, a first-year economics major and lifelong vegetarian. “And it would not only make people aware, but also allow them to participate in supporting the environment and their health.”
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