ETHS adds vegetarian lunch options as part of Meatless Monday campaign

Sammy Caiola, Reporter

For the first lunch of the new year, Evanston Township High School students had additional vegetarian options as part of the school’s participation in a national meat-free meal campaign. The school’s Meatless Mondays campaign was started by the Humane Society of the United States, a national non-profit that advocates for animal rights.

About 50 percent of entrees offered Monday — including tofu stir-fry and black bean burgers — were meatless, said Kim Minestra, ETHS director of nutrition services. ETHS is the first Chicago-area high school to participate in the weekly alternative, although Northwestern and nearby institutions at other levels have also signed on.

Kenny Torrella, Humane Society’s outreach coordinator, said he contacted the school a few months ago, at which point Minestra agreed the program would be a good fit for her health and sustainability initiatives at ETHS.

“It’s good to educate students on the health benefits of not eating meat every single day,” Minestra said. “Not becoming a vegetarian by any means, but just watching your meat intake and fat consumption in general … There’s no reason why you have to have the center of your plate always be a piece of red meat or chicken. You can still get protein in other ways.”

In order to promote the campaign, Minestra said she hung Meatless Monday posters and fliers provided by the Humane Society and sent an informational video to teachers hoping it would be shown in class.

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the Mondays Campaign started Meatless Mondays in 2003. Torrella said the program is now at approximately 2,000 institutions nationwide.

Torrella said he has noticed more and more young people becoming passionate about animal welfare and environmental welfare, and he hopes to promote that interest through projects like Meatless Mondays.

Some ETHS students recently approached Minestra about more vegetarian options at ETHS, which was one of several reasons she committed to the program, she said. Swapping meat dishes for vegetarian ones did not involve any substantial additional costs.

The school also installed a new fruit and vegetable bar, which ETHS sophomore Carlos Taylor said he noticed as soon as he walked in to lunch.

Taylor, who recently became a vegetarian, said he believes the slaughter of animals is inhumane and enjoys the health benefits of not eating meat.

“I love Meatless Mondays,” he said. “At least one day a week, we know we can have something other than the unhealthy meaty food.”