This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To combat increasing rates of obesity – and protect the environment – the Humane League is urging District officials to implement its Meatless Monday campaign in city schools.
“More than a third of American children are overweight or obese, and nearly 70 percent of children in North Philly are overweight, [so] the writing is on the wall that we need to take swift action,” said Rachel Atcheson, Philadelphia director of the Humane League.
“Meatless Monday is a great way for the District to help students reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake and introduce them to a whole new world of eating.”
Meatless Mondays would decrease children’s chances of having high blood pressure and diabetes, Atcheson said. School lunches on this day would include such items as vegetarian nuggets, salads, and more fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health began promoting the idea as a public health initiative in 2003. Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution last fall encouraging city residents to participate in the campaign. Nationally, dozens of schools and school districts have already adopted the idea.
Atcheson has discussed the Meatless Monday idea with District Chief Operating Officer Fran Burns. To further spread the word, the Humane League has also given presentations at District schools, including Dobbins, Edison, Constitution, and South Philadelphia high schools.
“The Meatless Monday campaign is important because we need to be concerned about the health of our young people in this country. They need to learn how to make healthy food choices,” said Penny Greenberg, the culinary arts teacher at Dobbins.
“Americans eat way too much meat, and I feel that it would benefit our students to not eat meat for one day.”
For more information about the campaign and to sign a petition, visit PhillyMeatlessMonday.com.