As part of my capstone project to complete my master’s degree, I worked with the Office of Brooklyn Borough President’s Office on the Meatless Monday pilot program. The program, which launched in February 2018, included 15 Brooklyn schools in various neighborhoods throughout the borough. Below is the executive summary of the final report that was submitted. Above is the full report, which you can flip through using a widget.
Last fall, New York City Mayor de Blasio, with Chancellor Fariña and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, announced that 15 Brooklyn elementary schools would begin participating in the Meatless Mondays pilot program. After the introduction of the program in February 2018, there has been a continued drop in participation in the lunch program on Mondays by students. On average, there has been a 3.5% drop in number of lunches served on Meatless Monday (compared to lunches served on Mondays prior to the pilot program). Staff at the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President guessed early on that communication about Meatless Monday within the schools was a problem.
To identify current attitudes and practices within the Meatless Monday schools, interviews with principals, kitchen staff, teachers, and students were conducted at 11 of the 15 schools. Those interviews revealed several themes such as the schools’ food priorities, the challenges to implementing Meatless Mondays, and next steps for improvement. Throughout this process, schools indicated a desire to involve students and parents more in Meatless Mondays but did not have concrete ideas about what needed to be done.
A literature review was also conducted to develop evidence-based strategies for the schools to use. This review included current research regarding school lunches and marketing healthy food to children. The research pointed to the effectiveness of print communication in schools and lunch rooms in helping students make healthier choices.
Findings from both the interviews and research directly inform the strategies and tactics recommended to the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President to continue the Office’s support of the Meatless Mondays pilot program. In addition to providing a road map for the Office to support the Meatless Monday schools’ efforts, they support the long-term goals of the Office, which are that a) the Meatless Monday schools use the program to initiate more lessons on health and nutrition and b) the Meatless Monday schools are advocates in the community for policies that support healthy living practices.
While the road to creating advocates with increased knowledge about health and nutrition may be long, the Office must continue to support the pilot program schools on this journey. The official support of the Brooklyn Borough President, paired with the following strategies, will empower these schools (and beyond) with the tools they need to take ownership of their health.