Meatless Monday is not a new idea. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. “Food Will Win the War,” the government proclaimed, and “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” were introduced to encourage Americans to do their part. The effect was overwhelming; more than 13 million families signed a pledge to observe the national meatless and wheatless conservation days.1
The campaign returned during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt relaunched it to help that war’s efforts on the home front. In the immediate post-war years, President Harry S. Truman continued the campaign to help feed war-ravaged Europe.
Meatless Monday was revived in 2003 by former ad man turned health advocate Sid Lerner, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. Reintroduced as a public health awareness campaign, Meatless Monday addresses the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption. With the average American eating as much as 75 more pounds of meat each year than in generations past, our message of “one day a week, cut out meat” is a way for individuals to do something good for themselves and for the planet.
Since 2003, Meatless Monday has grown into a global movement powered by a network of participating individuals, hospitals, schools, worksites and restaurants around the world. The reason is twofold: the simplicity of Meatless Monday’s message has allowed the campaign to be embraced, talked about and shared by participants around the world, while the health benefits of reducing meat consumption are regular stories in the nation’s news outlets.
At The Monday Campaigns, we believe Monday is the day all health breaks loose. Research shows that Monday is the perfect day to make small, positive changes. The repeating cycle of the week allows Monday, 52 times a year, to be the day people commit to all kinds of healthy behaviors.
To that end, we have launched other campaigns that leverage the Monday concept for positive outcomes, like The Kids Cook Monday, Move It Monday, and Quit and Stay Quit Monday. In addition to Johns Hopkins, we’ve partnered with other leading public health schools—Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University—that serve with us as scientific advisors and work with us to develop evidence-based models using the Monday concept.
1. History of the United States Food Administration, 1917-1919 By William Clinton Mullendore, Ralph Haswell Lutz (Stanford University Press, 1941)
2. Conservation and Regulation in the United States During the World War: An Outline for a Course of Lectures to Be Given in Higher Educational Institutions, Volume 2 By Charles R. Van Hise (United States Food Administration, 1918)