We recently wrote about the first public school go all vegetarian. While we know of no other public school that has as yet, followed New York’s lead, we do want to report about three other major school districts that have made some profound moves in the veg-direction. The latest is the San Diego public school system which has enacted a Meatless Monday policy for every school in the city. Almost as exciting is the level of recognition shown by its school board members. Just listen to what their vice president, Kevin Beiser, has to say. It represents such a sea change that it’s worth quoting:
As a member of the San Diego Unified school board, I’m proud to have helped pass the resolution to participate in Meatless Mondays at our elementary and K-8 schools. When I joined the board, it was because I wanted to do to everything I can to ensure a better future and more opportunities for our city’s children. Food and nutrition plays a big, but often overlooked, role in education and it’s time we give it the attention it deserves.
We hear so much more these days about the obesity epidemic. Nearly 28 percent of children in San Diego County are overweight or obese. Nationally, the CDC reports that obesity rates have tripled in adolescents and doubled in children over the last three decades. This crisis has both long- and short-term implications. Obese children are likely to become obese adults, putting them at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Earlier this month the Permanente Journal — published by insurance giant Kaiser Permanente — included a report recommending that physicians encourage patients to eat more plant-based foods. “Studies exploring the risk of overweight and food groups and dietary patterns indicate that a plant-based diet seems to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children,” it said…
…There are other benefits of Meatless Monday, as well. Industrial animal agriculture has been implicated by the United Nations as one of the top contributors to global environmental problems, due to its vast use of land, water and fossil fuels, and methane high carbon and dioxide emissions. And leading environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council support reducing our meat consumption to improve environmental sustainability.
Lawrence Hansen, a professor at the UC San Diego medical school, urged the board to steer children toward healthy diets that are free of animal products. “I have five reasons why the district should adopt Meatless Mondays: heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes and obesity,”
Just a few months earlier, Los Angeles also enacted a meatless Mondays program in their school district as well. This is significant since Los Angeles has the second-largest public school district in the country.
However the Baltimore City Public School system gets bragging rights for becoming the first fully Meatless Monday school system in the U.S. The menu adjustment is the brainchild of a nonprofit initiative, in association with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, and it shows just how much can be accomplished when nonprofits team up with governmental authorities.