Tahoe-Truckee schools join national Meatless Monday movement
TRUCKEE, Calif. — On Monday, Alder Creek Middle School students lined up for lunch, selecting from whole grain tortilla chips topped with refried beans and cheese, a baked potato and salad ingredients.
As for meat, well, it wasn’t on the menu.
“I think it’s great because I don’t like eating meat that much, and I know that other people here don’t either,” said Whitney Wingard, a sixth-grader at the school.
Since Oct. 6, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District schools have been serving plant-based entrees every Monday as part of the nationwide Meatless Monday campaign.
Meatless Monday began in 2003, launched in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, according to the movement’s website. It’s now active in 36 countries.
“We have to offer vegetables and grains and plant-based foods, and so (Meatless Monday) was a natural progression because of our dedication to sustainability and healthy students,” said Kat Soltanmorad, director of food services for TTUSD.
She said feedback from students and parents on the switch has been positive.
“Our community is health conscious, and so it’s a great sell,” Soltanmorad said. “It’s an easy sell.”
Kings Beach resident John Merryfield, who has adhered to a plant-based diet for over 30 years, said he is “thrilled” TTUSD has joined Meatless Mondays.
“Good habits are started with small steps in the right direction,” said Merryfield, who’s also director of the Vegan 1 Day Project. “TTUSD has shown vision and leadership by going meatless on Mondays. It tells me that they care about our kids’ health and about educating kids about how our personal food choices matter.”
The Vegan 1 Day Project is a grassroots effort to encourage the public to adopt a vegan diet for at least one day out of the year, for health, the environment and animals.
Soltanmorad said Meatless Monday follows federal nutrition standards for schools, which outlines grain, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetable requirements for school meals.
“I think at a young age habits are still forming, and so (Meatless Monday) is a great opportunity to offer choice and variety,” Soltanmorad said. “We hope nutritious habits develop. As much as we can expose students and make it easy to make healthy choices, I think they will develop a healthy lifestyle.”
When asked what she has gotten out of Meatless Monday, Wingard said: “I’ve learned that I should try new things, and they can taste good.”
Meals students can expect include burrito bowls, teriyaki tofu, and cheese- or squash-filled whole grain raviolis.
Lunches brought by students from home on Mondays can include meat, Soltanmorad said.
The goal is to continue Meatless Monday for the rest of the school year, she added
“I hope … that we can support the campaign, our mission of sustainability and healthy meals with appetizing entries, and students like it,” she said. “They’re our No. 1 customer.”