East Quadrangle pioneers "Meatless Monday" event

Rita Morris/Daily
East Quad hosts its first Meatless Monday menu, where Malibu veggie burgers replace traditional meat dishes at the Wild Fire station in the dining hall Monday. Buy this photo

By Lindsey Scullen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 23, 2015

Students searching for hot dogs in East Quad Residence Hall on Monday were headed for disappointment.

Monday marked Michigan Dining’s first step toward joining “Meatless Monday” — a global movement started in 2003 at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. East Quad was the first to try it out — throughout the entire day, no meat was served at the dining hall.

The initiative has reached 36 different countries and is rooted in the idea that decreasing the amount of meat eaten is good for the health of both humans and the planet.

LSA sophomore Katherine Hamilton said she agrees that Meatless Monday is beneficial to health.

“A lot of meat isn’t really made ethically or totally healthily and so I think giving up meat for a day a week is just a good idea in general,” she said.

The Meatless Monday campaign’s website says going meatless at least once a week can make diners less likely to develop chronic conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Buzz Cummings, head chef at East Quad, agrees that meat can increase these risks, and said he eats with health in mind.

“I’ve tried to eat more fruits and vegetables because I was diagnosed with cancer myself,” Cummings said. “You can really satisfy someone’s diet with all the different fruits and vegetables that are out there. The whole movement has gotten pretty large in the last 15 years or so.”

Michigan Dining also cited several sustainability reasons for taking this meatless step, including to reduce the University’s carbon footprint. The United Nations estimates that around one-fifth of man-made, greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat industry.

A second reason is to reduce dining hall water usage.

“Close to 2000 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef, where it only takes 40 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables,” Cummings said.

Cummings mentioned a third benefit of going meatless: reducing Michigan’s fuel dependence. In the United States, it takes around 40 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of feedlot beef while it takes only around 2.2 calories of fossil fuel to produce an equivalent amount of plant-based protein.

In a press release, Michigan Dining said it elected East Quad as the pioneer for Meatless Monday in dining hall for two reasons. First, a proportion of the student community eating at East Quad has backed sustainability efforts in the past. Second, East Quad is located close to the Mosher-Jordan and South Quad dining halls, providing meat eaters with nearby options if a meatless meal is unappealing.

Though the day’s food options were entirely vegetarian, Cummings and his staff strove to create a menu that would appeal to all types of eaters.

For the “burger and fries people,” for example, the kitchen staff concocted portobello sliders, which contained marinated grilled portobello mushrooms on a slider bun with a baby kale mix.

“We try to make everything every day as fresh and appetizing as possible, but today we’re really going to try to turn it up so we can get nothing but positive comments,because we’d like to keep this going,” Cummings said.

Yet, for some students, like Kinesiology freshman Ryan Armbruster, the accommodations were not enough.

“I’m paying for this food and I don’t think it should be restricted to certain things. They have different stations in there — it works well the way it is,” he said. “They have the vegan station, the vegetarian station and things like that. It’s not like I’m completely condemning it. I’m still going to eat there today.”

East Quad’s number of student customers did go down today. At both breakfast and lunch the dining hall saw a decrease in about 150 students from a normal day’s dining numbers. Still, Cummings has hope.

“Will we do it again? I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t think it was a total bust.”

Alongside the negative feedback posters hanging on the wall outside East Quad’s dining hall — which included Armbruster’s comments — there were also positive feedback postings. Some comments included, “It’s better for human and environmental health,” and “actually v. tasty options!”

Cummings said the staff and administration will review the positive and negative feedback before deciding whether Meatless Monday will continue. If feedback is positive, he said he hopes this is an initiative they can repeat once a month, or maybe even once a week.