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Free E-Cookbook Helps K-12 Operations Kick Off Meatless Monday

The Monday Campaigns, the nonprofit public health organization behind Meatless Monday, recently announced the publication of Meatless Monday Goes to School, a beautifully designed, free collection of 30 child-friendly, meatless lunch recipes to help K-12 foodservice directors and community advocates implement the program in schools. Diana Rice, RDN, staff dietitian for Meatless Monday, curated the recipes from current Meatless Monday participants, as well as from brands and organizations that promote healthful school dining.

The e-cookbook addresses the need for K-12 schools to create delicious vegetarian recipes that fulfill the meat/meat alternate component of the National School Lunch Program's (NSLP) meal pattern. Meals that are low in animal foods and instead highlight plant sources of nutrition, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, help curb many preventable chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Nutrition experts agree it's important to offer plant-based options that fit into the NSLP recommendations, as school lunches provide growing children with the nutrients they need for optimal physical and academic development.

"There's still a shortage of child-friendly, meatless bulk recipes that fit the NSLP requirements," Rice says. "This lack of resources prompted our organization to approach Meatless Monday partners for recipe contributions."

Karla Dumas, RDN, who's on staff with The Humane Society, collaborated on the book and agrees there's a strong need for such a resource. "Working for a decade in the field of child nutrition, I've been encouraged to see schools increasingly use Meatless Monday and similar initiatives to support a lifetime of healthful eating habits. Schools are hungry for recipes and resources to help with these programs that are building a healthier future for our kids," Dumas says.

Contributing recipe partners include The Humane Society, Barilla, Beyond Meat, JTM Food Group, SunButter, the Mushroom Council, the American Egg Board, the National School Foodservice Management Institute, the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, The Lunch Box, and participating school districts across the country.

"Our school district implemented Meatless Monday to help meet the USDA's demand for more healthful meals and to support local wellness policies," says Tricia B. Neura, MPH, RD, LD, assistant program director of childhood nutrition for Hoover City Schools in Alabama. "The nutrition profile of our meatless options not only aligned with the nutrition standards of the updated meal pattern but also provided an opportunity for our students to try something new," she says.  Hoover City Schools contributed three recipes, including Bean Tostada Bowls, to the e-cookbook.

Meatless Monday has environmental benefits as well: Since meat requires more precious environmental resources to produce than plant-based sources of protein, participating in Meatless Monday is a way for children to know they're doing their part to protect the environment.

The Meatless Monday Goes to School e-cookbook features recipes such as Shanghai Sweet and Spicy Spaghetti from Barilla, Portabella Spinach Tomato Panini from the Mushroom Council, Beyond Chicken Buffalo Wraps from Beyond Meat, and Vegetable and Egg Fried Rice from the American Egg Board. These recipes will help schools and districts meet their nutrition goals while serving up appetizing meals that students are sure to enjoy.

"The flavorful recipes not only contribute to the meat alternate component of the NSLP meal pattern but they also emphasize vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It's critical that children are exposed to these nutritious foods to help them develop lifelong good eating habits," Rice adds.

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit public health initiative of The Monday Campaigns. Sid Lerner, the organization's chairman, founded the Meatless Monday movement in 2003, with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The campaign was founded on research that demonstrates that Monday is the day people are most primed to start and sustain a healthful new behavior. Since its launch 12 years ago, Meatless Monday has become an international movement with support from schools, celebrities, restaurants, and organizations around the world.

The e-cookbook is available as a free download here. For more free resources including toolkits, graphics, and posters, visit www.meatlessmonday.com.

— Source: The Meatless Monday Campaign