For one day a week, citizens in the city of Los Angeles are encouraged to be ‘veg heads.’
On Friday, the LA city council unanimously passed a resolution that declares every Monday a “Meatless Monday,” becoming the largest city to endorse the movement to curb meat consumption.
The resolution [PDF] is voluntary for citizens, and the councilmen say it was passed in “support of comprehensive sustainability efforts as well as to further encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health, protect animals and protect the environment.” In the resolution, which was introduced by councilwoman Jan Perry and councilman Ed Reyes, the representatives discussed issues involving the environmental and health impacts of meat consumption, and cited the American Dietetic Association’s recognition that eating less meat can decrease risk of health problems including obesity, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers.
The Meatless Monday movement actually had its roots in a World War I effort to ration key staples during the war, and recently re-emerged in 2003 as part of a public health campaign to encourage healthier eating that was endorsed by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
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The Los Angeles resolution also calls out the role that meat-heavy diets can play in obesity, writing:
More than half of the adult population is overweight or obese in Los Angeles County, according to the County’s Department of Health Services. Those who are obese are at increased risk of developing many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and many types of cancer; and statistics show that low-income areas in Los Angeles are at higher risk for preventable diseases linked to obesity, including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer; and low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles have less access to healthy foods.
“Eating less meat can prevent and even reverse some of our nation’s most common illnesses,” Perry said in making the case for the meatless Mondays, NBC Los Angeles reports. “We’ve become disconnected in some ways from the simple truth that our health is directly affected by the foods we eat.”
The resolution doesn’t make eating meat a crime, and it won’t be enforced by law, the LA Daily News reports. But officials hope it will spark a city-wide trend toward healthy eating and better care of the environment.
L.A. may be the largest city to pass a Meatless Monday resolution, but other cities like Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina have passed similar resolutions.
“We are of course really pleased and excited,” says Peggy Neu, president of Meatless Monday. “I think one of the things that’s so great about a city adopting the resolution is that the whole community can get behind it. When people from all sectors can join together to do it–like restaurants, hospitals, schools–it gives you a sense of community. People can go out to eat together, have a potluck, have a special meal as a family. If the whole community is around it, it can really be a great social ritual.”
The hope is that cutting out meat on Mondays will help people to turn to other, healthier options, including fruits and vegetables. “There are a lot of health benefits to reducing meat consumption, but there are so many positive benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables,” says Neu. “I think that is one of the challenges for people. We find from our research that when people do Meatless Monday, they find different ways to cook vegetables. Hopefully this population that has such an issue with obesity can use this as an opportunity to experiment and try those healthy options.”
For restaurants, school programs and food services supporting Meatless Monday, check out the site here.