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Today, in Part 1, I am exploring how and when the Meatless Monday initiative emerged. As you will see, it has grown significantly from its early days.
For centuries, societies developed food guidance that included particular diets for different days of the week. Today, many modern religions have meat-free days. Catholics, for example, have long had the tradition of meat-free Fridays. The Friday fish fry dinner get together is still a regular activity in many parishes. Plus, during times of emergencies, leaders often urge people to change their diets so that they can divert meat for military troops or because of low production numbers. This type of rationing occurred in the United States during both World War I and II. People were urged to grown their own food as well during those years.
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Today's idea of Meatless Monday emerged from an advertising campaign developed by the noted marketing creative director, Sidney Lerner, who passed away this year in January. Lerner, who many older folks in the US might now from his Please don't squeeze the Charmin toilet paper campaign, realized that marketing can have a big impact on public health if it is used for the greater good. As a result, he created The Monday Campaigns in partnership with the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in 2003.
Since the Meatless Monday program started in partnership with a public health focus, the early initiatives highlighted the health benefits of eating less meat. However, as climate change became a more pressing issue in recent years, the program has highlighted the planetary benefits of choosing to eat less meat.
The beauty of Meatless Monday is the clarity of the initiative. The ask is simple. Don't eat meat on Monday. That's it. Even if you are a major carnivore, you can find something you can eat that doesn't have meat once a week. The options are endless--and delicious. The Monday Campaigns provides a ton of recipes and resources to help individuals or groups in their efforts. You can find them here.
One of the great things about this campaign is that it focuses on Monday and Monday is a day of new beginnings for most of us. We start the work week on Mondays and the cycle of the week flows from whatever we do at the outset of the week. Thus, for many, Meatless Monday is not just about a day, but can lead to several days or even a complete change of lifestyle.
While there are certainly some who embrace a vegan or vegetarian diet after starting Meatless Monday, you can make a huge difference in your health and you can improve the planet by embracing a meatless diet just once a week.
Next Monday the series continues with a review of these health and planetary benefits. For now, join me and give Meatless Monday a try--your body and our planet will be better for it.