ST. GEORGE, Utah – Children across the country are discovering tofu, veggie burgers and beans in the school lunch line, but on Mondays, there is always an absence of meat. A school district in Utah instituted the program during the month of October to get students to eat healthier, the Deseret News reported Monday.
The district has not met with much resistance and the district says the response has been mostly positive. Still, the program is leaving some Utah parents asking, “Where’s the beef?”
Granite School District in West Valley, Utah, the state’s largest school district, decided to adopt the Meatless Monday movement for school lunches this month. The movement is part of a nationwide program being instituted in restaurants and schools and families are also encouraged to participate. MM organizers say the movement helps cut food costs, reduce obesity and encourage sustainable food.
Granite schools instituted the program in an effort to promote and increase student consumption of vegetables and fruit.
"It was just something to broaden the scope. Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables … that's our biggest hurdle,” said Jeff Gratton, director of operations for the district's food services.
Gratton said the district tried to adopt already existing lunch choices, such as offering vegetarian lasagna or bean burritos.
Schools say they’ve heard only positive responses from parents and teachers. Many parents like the push toward nutrition. Other picky eaters are free to bring their own lunch, which may or may not contain meat.
Parents in other Utah school districts hope the movement spreads to their schools as well.
“I love the idea. I think that’s awesome!” said Jamie Albrecht, of St. George, Utah, whose daughter attends kindergarten. “I think it’s good because a lot of the kids don’t eat meat these days and there’s all that bad stuff in meat, and E. coli and things.”
“Besides, it gives kids who eat a lot of meat at home a chance to try new foods,” Albrecht added.
“I think everyone should [still] eat meat, but I think they’re looking out for the benefit of the kids,” David Sylvain, of St. George, commented. He said his 14-year-old son Cody doesn’t usually eat lunch at school, but he does like his steak. “I don’t think the hot dogs and stuff are a good idea. Not good for the kids.”
When the Granite School District’s program has run its course, finishing up on Oct. 31, the district will review its success, based on whether there was a decrease in meals purchased on Mondays in October. If there was a significant drop off, district officials say they likely won't continue it. But if numbers held steady, the district might explore pursuing it in the future, the Deseret News reported.
Meanwhile, the Meatless Monday movement is spreading across the country, and has been instituted in schools in Connecticut, New York and Virginia. Other well-known restaurateurs, such as Mario Batali, have adopted the policy for their restaurants. To find out more about the program, visit www.meatlessmonday.com.