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Sustainable Mondays


(background music playing)

(“Meatless Meatless Meatless Monday Monday Monday” being chanted in background)

N: Hey Guys, my name is Noelle, and today I’m talking about the transition from Meatless Mondays to Sustainable Mondays in the dining halls.

K: So my name is Keith. My title is Director of Student Engagement Sustainability Community
Engagement Training and Development. And so my role is to engage with students around sustainable food projects or sustainability in general. They come and see someone in my office and I guess we act as a resource and we help direct them to the resources that are available to them, whether it be people or places on campus they can visit to get the information they need in order to get their work done.

N: So Keith, how are the dining halls working toward the campus sustainability goals?

K: We had something called Meatless Mondays and we only offered it on Mondays and only in East Quad and so we had a new dining director last year and he questioned the Meatless Mondays, simply because it sounds like we’re taking something away from students. And the National Humane Society which sponsored Meatless Mondays stopped calling it Meatless Monday because of that connotation so we switched it out to Sustainable Mondays. And Sustainable Mondays is an opportunity for Dining to educate students on plant-based diets and plant-based proteins in order to reduce red meat consumption. Red meat consumption really boosts the greenhouse gas emissions so in order for people to move forward in a healthy and a responsible way, we are offering more vegan and vegetarian items but more knowledge or education around plant-based items and how that fits into a diet better than like red meat.

N: So I know it’s a lot more promoted I would say at East Quad than other dining halls. Do you think there’s a way to make it so it’s more promoted that it’s through the whole campus and not just at East Quad?

K: Yeah, I will say this, we piloted it last Spring in all of the dining halls. And so we found our way and got used to it and figured it out, the messages we wanted to tell and all of that. They all agreed to Sustainable Mondays. Some would say this, since we started Sustainable Mondays, I had a lot of vegan and vegetarian students come to me and they were concerned, so we actually brought in the chef from the National Human Society and she worked with all of our chefs to come up with vegan and vegetarian entrees and meal options and ideas. Then I got the chefs all to commit to having one vegan and one vegetarian hot entre at every location. And that doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but you know we have the salad bars in every location, we have different soups and we try to have a variety of items where people can pick and choose.

N: At U of M as a community, as a whole, do the students like Sustainable Mondays more, you think that Meatless Mondays?

K: Well, I think they were confused at first. Right, because those that supported Meatless Mondays were upset that we actually brought back poultry and fish on Mondays, and so we asked the managers in the units not to promote red meat consumption. We also want to make sure that we’re not, that we’re offering choices. Like so the thought is that we offer lots of healthy, protein-based plants and foods that satisfy students in a health and wellness type of way instead of things like chicken nuggets and tater tots and that sort of thing and then it’s up to the student to understand what their specific needs are, and then apply that knowledge to our menus to select what they want, right.

N: Thanks Keith, for telling us that. And yes, as a vegetarian myself, I do believe the dining halls have a lot of options. But I do love that our dining halls are promoting not just healthy options for us, but also our planet. With plant-based protein we are reducing our carbon footprint and conserving water. Animal agriculture is estimated to produce 15% all the way up to 51% of all global green gas emissions. This is a huge contributor to climate change. Much of our freshwater resources go toward the production of livestock feed. With more extreme weather and climate change it is crucial to protect our water.

The next time you go to the dining hall on a Monday, or just preparing a meal, think of cooking it up in a sustainable way. Thanks for listening!

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(Sustainable Sustainable Sustainable Monday Monday Monday echoing in the background)