Posted: September 10, 2010
Campaigns for going meatless one day a week abound these days but that trend goes back centuries for some, and for better reasons.
We’ve got the “Meatless Monday” group, that advocates reducing meat consumption by 15% “in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.” The group notes that “Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt galvanized the nation with voluntary meatless days during both world wars.” They want to “revitalize this American tradition.” However, it goes without saying that the goal of advocating a meatless day a week made by presidents during wartime had nothing to do with reducing our carbon footprint and “leading the world in the race to reduce climate change.” It was all about conserving our food resources and ensuring that we had adequate supplies for our troops.
Some universities have instituted the meatless Mondays idea on campus, and now the public school system is getting in on the act. Cattle producers and other carnivores around Columbia, Missouri fought back at the beginning of this school year when they found out that the Columbia public school system was having meatless “Wacky Wednesdays” in the cafeterias to promote vegetarian meals. I heard about this effort from a local cattle producer and the Columbia News Tribune reported on the story last week. After a grass-roots campaign took off, the school district decided they would offer a meat option on the lunch menu, although will still focus on promoting vegetables. The director of nutrition services for the school district apologized for offending meat producers, saying that “We have had meatless days before, just without advertising.”
Indeed, back in the old days, most public schools offered meatless menus on Fridays in deference to Catholics, when it was still a norm in the church to abstain from meat that day of the week. Now it is only required during Lent. I was not Catholic growing up, but I still remember that Fridays meant tasteless mac and cheese or cardboard cheese pizza for lunch. As an adult Catholic convert, we still adhere to the old school and avoid meat on Fridays, suffering instead with smoked salmon and capers or grilled tilapia. Not quite as rough!
Of course, like taking a day off from meat during wartime, the Catholic reason for meatless Fridays has nothing at all to do with opposing meat for vegetarian or “environmental” reasons. For Catholics, it means abstaining from something enjoyable to improve our spiritual health. Since my children attended parochial schools that at least have meatless menus on Friday during Lent, I really don’t know if the public schools offer a meatless option on Fridays during Lent for Catholics, but I would suspect that might mean showing a preference for someone’s religion in a taxpayer-funded public school. Besides, Meatless Mondays and Wacky Wednesdays I guess just have a better ring to them than “Fasting Fridays.”