There will be two additional meatless days per week in the college dining halls in an effort to reduce the college’s meat consumption by 30 percent, according to an all-school email sent by the Student Government Association (SGA) on Jan. 15. In addition to Meatless Monday, which already takes place in Atwater dining hall, Ross Dining hall will go meatless on Wednesdays for lunch and Proctor dining hall will go meatless on Fridays for lunch. The step is meant to lower the dining halls’ environmental impact, improve the health of students and save money that can be reverted to higher quality meats and local producers.
This initiative has been led by EatReal, a student organization that promotes more sustainable eating habits on campus, and the college’s Environmental Affairs Committee and Sunday Night Environmental Group. These groups have been working with the college’s dining services to reach at least a 20 percent reduction from 2017 data by the end of 2019.
The college’s dining halls serve 1.5 times the amount of protein recommended per person per day by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to a 2016 EatReal survey. Based on these results, EatReal passed a bill in May 2017 to reduce meat consumption by 30 percent, in increments of 10 percent for each of the next three years. The bill passed unanimously in the SGA and with the support of 66.86 percent of surveyed students, as well as support from athletes and coaches on campus.
According to the bill, the first phase included a reduction in meat soups and salads, offering a plain meat option at every lunch and dinner, smaller pieces of meat in dishes to promote portion control and reduce consumption and more. Between 2017 and 2018, these changes contributed to a 7.95 percent reduction in meat and around $32,000 in savings.
The Jan. 15 email indicated that the second phase involves the additional meatless days in the dining hall. EatReal found that the Meatless Mondays initially reduced the numbers of students in the dining hall but that gradually the number of students has recovered and there has been limited negative feedback.
Some students still expressed concern in spite of these findings. While many students support the meat reduction initiative as a whole, some, like Nathaniel Blumenthal ’21.5, remain skeptical about the implementation of this second phase.
“Ridding certain dining halls of meat on particular days may cause unforeseen congestion issues if students change their eating habits based on whether meat is being served in the dining hall,” Blumenthal said.
Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations, remains hopeful, however, saying that he believes the college is moving in the right direction by considering the environmental impact of meat consumption on campus.
“Hopefully meat-eating students will at least try some of the very delicious vegetarian entrees,” Detora said, although still maintaining that these changes will have minimal impacts on dining experiences.
Detora said in an interview with the Campus that the financial implications of these changes are still uncertain, however.
“Keep in mind that non-meat entrees can be just as expensive if not more than meat entrees,” Detora said.
The SGA spoke to these some of these and some other student concerns in a second email sent to students on Jan. 20. In response to concerns of inconvenience, they wrote that the current phase only requires students to either eat a plant-based protein instead of protein once per week, eat a sandwich with deli meat once a week or eat in a different dining hall once a week. This second email also reversed course on the implementation; the full meatless days announced in the first email were changed to only meatless lunches on those same days. It encouraged students to submit feedback at go/meatreductionfeedback.
The SGA Athletic Affairs Committee sent out a survey to all varsity, junior varsity, and club teams for reactions towards this second phase and the bill in general. While the results of the survey are still under review, there are also athletes that look to the bigger picture in addition to their own nutritional needs.
“I’m for it, though my initial reaction was negative,” said Willson Moore ’22, a Nordic skier. “I eat a pretty hearty amount of meat myself as an endurance athlete and like meat-included food better in general, but recognize the need to cut back on consumption as a college is much more important.”
Porter Bowman ’21.5 is the Senior Opinions Editor.
He previously served as the Correspondent to the Student Government Association (SGA) and a Staff Writer for the News and Local sections.
Bowman is pursuing an International Politics and Economics major and a History minor.
During the summer of 2020, Bowman started a podcast called “Why Not U.S.?” where he interviewed young people in their 20s serving in political office across the country.
He also worked as a producer and researcher for “Trickeration,” an investigative sports podcast from iHeartMedia hosted by Campus alum Matt Waxman ’01.5.
When not watching the West Wing or finishing crossword puzzles, Bowman plays on the Middlebury varsity golf team alongside basketball, club tennis, and intramural volleyball.
He lost on Teen Jeopardy! in November 2016.