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Mom’s not the only one pushing fresh veggies on the kiddos. On the agenda for tonight’s San Diego Unified school board meeting is a proposal introduced by board member Kevin Beiser and board president John Lee Evans to adopt “Meatless Mondays” for the district’s K-8 students.
The idea behind Meatless Mondays – a movement first launched by Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health 10-years ago – is to improve nutrition while reducing the risk of health woes that plague our nation: obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In San Diego County, nearly 28 percent of the children are overweight or obese.
In addition to health benefits, advocates say making the switch to vegetarian meals one day a week will also go a long way in reducing the impact meat production can have on the environment – a claim that the meat industry often publicly opposes. The San Diego schools proposal is being supported by a number of environmental and animal welfare groups including Mercy for Animals; Farm Animal Rights Movement; and the Sierra Club.
Evans tells the U-T San Diego that they’re not making a political statement.
“We are not doing this in terms of promoting vegetarianism. Elementary kids are younger and they are developing their eating habits. We are promoting good nutrition,” he said.
Meatless Monday is an idea that’s already been embraced by hospitals and universities, including Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center; as well as UC San Diego; San Diego State and University of San Diego.
In Southern California, LA Unified and Oak Park Unified School Districts have also signed on, and according to Monday Campaign spokesperson Cherry Dumaual, 18 school districts and 47 independent schools around the U.S. have participated. A New York public elementary school in Queens took the movement a step further, and became the first in the nation to serve all vegetarian meals.
The proposal here isn’t a huge leap. San Diego’s middle and upper schools already serve daily meatless options, so the proposal will only impact children in grades K-8. If approved by the board, it is expected to start this fall.
If you’re worried fruits and vegetables may cost the school system more money, you can tuck that concern away in your bean and cheese burrito.
“It’s cost neutral for the food services,” says spokesperson Linda Zintz. “There are no cost savings or costs incurred. Several options like vegetarian chili, quesadillas and cheese pizza are already offered. The food service will just offer those on Mondays, rather than a different day of the week if it passes.”