Monday, Feb. 4, marked the first Meatless Monday of the year. The program, which was tumultuously endorsed by the Student Government Association (SGA) on a trial basis late last semester, aims to shrink St. Mary’s carbon footprint and raise awareness about the benefits of reducing meat consumption. Despite the program’s name, meat will still be widely available on Mondays. As part of a compromise, the SGA restricted the program to the main and international sections of the dining hall. Meat will still be available in the deli line and will not be reduced or removed from any other establishments on campus.
The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) was one of the strongest supporters of the Meatless Mondays proposal as it made its way through the SGA and into the college administration. Sophomore student and President of SEAC, Emily Altman, met with Bon Appetit, the company that caters the Great Room, on behalf of SEAC in order to hash out certain details about the implementation of Meatless Mondays. Two important decisions came out of this meeting. The first is that student feedback will be coordinated through Bon Appetit; though this plan has not been fully articulated, students can probably expect to use a system similar in principle to Bon Appetit’s current cork suggestion board to make their support or grievances known.
The second issue discussed was the level to which meat substitutes would be included in the menu. According to Altman, Bon Appetit has “decided that it would be best to start the program off with limited amounts of meat substitute and see how it goes from there.” This decision was heavily influenced by the expense of meat substitutes and detrimental effect that such substitutes would have on the program’s awareness component. Since the SGA resolution compromise effectively cut the potential environmental benefits of the program in half, raising awareness has taken on increased importance in the eyes of many supporters.
According to Joel Blice, Head of Bon Appetit at SMCM, most of the meat replacements will consist of legumes, whole grain products, and steamed vegetables, along with some tofu and tempeh dishes. Since most of these dishes have already been provided on a semi regular basis, Blice reports that Bon Appetit’s logistical hurdles in setting up this new menu have been negligible. In the end, the program is very much a trial and its development will depend heavily on student response; as Altman said: “the best way to run the program is to get as much student feedback as possible.” Given recent history, no shortage of student feedback is expected.