If you’re having lunch in Estabrook on Mondays, get ready to skip the meat and feel great about it. Meatless Mondays is a global movement that encourages people to reduce the meat in their diet for health and environmental reasons. In recent years, even avid carnivores have embraced Meatless Mondays to help tamp down their carbon footprint. How did the movement reach the kitchens of Estabrook? Brewster students led the way.
A LASER-FOCUSED VISION
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, students in the Environmental Club brainstormed six programs they wanted to attempt to implement throughout the year. “We planned two programs per trimester,” explains Sylvie Skibicki ’23, who leads the club with Elisha Grace King ’23. “For the fall we began to implement clothing swaps and campus clean-ups alternating every other week. After that was steadily going, we decided to move forward with our next programming goal: Meatless Mondays.”
In Dining Director Dan Corey, the students found a willing and enthusiastic partner. “Mr. Corey is passionate about sustainable food consumption and extremely open to suggestions and recipes,” says Skibicki, who along with King, Liam Fahey ’24, Lam Nguyen ’23, Yejin Jo ’25, Zoe Schwartz ’23, Al-Zaharaa Al Zaabi ‘23, Grace Watson ‘26, and Club Advisor Tom Hill, met with Chef Corey to discuss the feasibility of meat-free meals at Brewster.
“We discussed the potential of going meatless on Mondays for one meal,” Chef Corey recalls. “I thought it was a great idea.” Our chef is no stranger to shaking up a menu and elevating what community dining can be. He implemented Brewster’s nut-free policy two years ago, and has shifted our food sources to include as many local producers as possible (more on that later).
The collaborators next set about creating a presentation to help the community understand the benefits of going meat-free. “I provided the students with some information on usage here at Brewster and the impact that we as a community have on the environment, and they tied it into a very thoughtful presentation,” says Chef Corey.
“We decided early on that it would be really important for us to educate the community about why reducing meat consumption (even just one day a week) can be so beneficial to our environment, so as soon as our presentation was approved by the Project Management Team, we were able to plan and organize when we would deliver our educational presentation,” Skibicki says.
The statistics they presented surprised many.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
At the presentation, Fahey shared that meat consumption and production contributes to 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that almost 5.3 billion gallons of water are used every day in meat production. (Animal-sourced meals demand more water than plant-based food.) “According to the Earth Day Network,” Fahey said, “if the whole world did not eat meat for a day, carbon emissions would be reduced to the equivalent of removing 7.6 million cars from the road.”
“There are many wasteful practices when it comes to the production of meat. Whether it be the large amounts of water used to process and raise meat or the emissions that coincide with transporting meat products,” Skibicki says. “Brewster currently sources food from about 23 local farms, 19 of these farms provide our plant-based foods. So by participating in meat-free meals at Brewster not only are we reducing our environmental impact by eating foods that take less water to produce, but we are also reducing our carbon footprint by the reduced amount of fuel needed to transport our locally sourced food to Brewster.”
To illustrate this point, Mr. Hill helped the club create a map showcasing the more than 20 local and regional farms and food companies where Mr. Corey orders the fresh ingredients coming into Brewster’s kitchens. The list of sources includes yogurt from Stonyfield Farms in New Hampshire, oats from Grandy Oats in Maine, tofu and tempeh from Woodstock Farms in Vermont, mushrooms from Franklin Farms in Massachusetts—plus microgreens from Farmacy and coffee from Lucas Roasting, both right here in Wolfeboro.
“I started eating plant-based around three years ago after watching a documentary on the environmental impact of industrial agriculture and livestock farming,” King says. “The doc is called ‘Cowspiracy,’ it’s an excellent and informative watch!” The more she learned about the positives of a vegetarian/vegan diet, King says, the more meat and animal products she wanted to cut out. “I also found that cutting back on meat pushed me to explore new foods that are found in some of my new favorite meals. There are so many cultures around the world that eat predominantly plant-based, and I hope that with Meatless Mondays, we can experience what their cuisine has to offer while feeling good about making a positive change in our lifestyles.”
In an email to the community after Meatless Monday lunch premiered on January 16, Mr. Corey shared the impact just one day of plant-based lunching had: “By substituting grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches for the grilled ham and cheese we were able to conserve 8,616 gallons of water and 1,248 pounds of CO2 emissions. Not having roast beef, turkey, and ham on the salad deli bar we saved 15,250 gallons of water and about 675 pounds of CO2 emissions.” The amount of meat consumed on a typical day in Esta is 45 pounds ham, 10 to 15 pounds turkey, 5 to 7 pounds roast beef and 5 pounds tuna fish. All told, the final savings on Meatless Monday was 23,866 gallons of water and 1,923 pounds CO2!
HERE’S TO YOUR HEALTH!
There are also health benefits to meatless meals. World Languages faculty member and nutritionist Marta Diaz notes that Meatless Mondays are a great way to move into getting more plant-based proteins and veggies into your eating plan. “A balanced diet involves eating carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to meet our body’s needs,” she explains. “However, in recent years, the scientific society has observed that people who consume red meat frequently have a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. And what you don't eat can be harmful. A diet low in nuts, seeds, shellfish, fish, fruits, and vegetables also harms your health.” Everyone’s needs are different, of course, but dietary guidelines for Americans recommend choosing a variety of proteins, including eggs, low-fat milk and products made from it, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
And if you’re worried about protein, the Environmental Club presentation also allayed those fears. An ounce of chicken has 7 grams of protein…so does a cup of whole wheat pasta. A hamburger patty has about 20 grams of protein…and so does a cup of tofu. Do we think swapping a fried hamburger with a slab of plain tofu is everyone’s idea of yummy? No. But what about swapping it with a stir fry of crunchy veggies and tofu in a delectable teriyaki sauce? Now we’re talking!
THE LAST BITE
Now, after getting all their ducks (or vegan duck substitutes?) in a row, the group celebrated the inaugural Meatless Monday lunch, and are excited that their collaboration means delicious plant-based choices every Monday on campus. Dishes in the first two weeks of the new plan have included Vegetable Moussaka, Grilled Polenta with Balsamic Tomato Chutney, Grilled Sunbutter and Jelly Sandwiches, Veggie Lasagna, Eggplant Parmesan Subs, and Thai Tofu Stew. The club is currently working on a survey that will be available to students to share/suggest meat-free meals.
“We hope the new tradition of meatless lunches once a week will lead to Mondays being entirely meat-free in our dining hall,” Skibicki says. In true Brewster fashion, the Environmental Club students also hope their efforts are a positive legacy for years to come. “Because we went through all of these steps,” Skibicki says, “it is our goal that this program will remain intact even beyond the time we attend Brewster.” Sounds like a great goal. Now pass the grilled polenta!
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