Virginia’s Loudoun County recently joined Aspen, Raleigh-Durham, Northern Kentucky and other communities across the country in going meatless on Monday. Loudoun Meatless Monday is being spearheaded by advocate Sue Sedlazek, who hopes the campaign will encourage citizens to try some of the many healthy, vegetarian items available in area restaurants.
We had an opportunity to speak with Sue about her decision to launch the campaign, how it’s going so far and what’s next for Loudoun Meatless Monday.
1) What inspired you to start Meatless Monday in your community?
About a year ago I founded an organization called Loudoun Veg with the mission of helping people reduce their consumption of animal products to create a more compassionate, sustainable community here in Loudoun County. I’d been talking about Meatless Mondays since Loudoun Veg came into existence, but the campaign really took off out here after a conversation I had with a local restaurant owner named Jane Shihadeh.
I was doing research for a vegan dining guide I was putting together and was asking Jane all sorts of questions about her menu. She really wanted to accommodate my dietary needs, but really didn’t want to make major changes to her menu. Then we got on to the topic of Meatless Mondays, and she saw that as the perfect solution. Offering a meatless special one day a week was something she could easily manage. In fact, she loved the idea so much, she just ran with it! Before I knew it, we were laying out a plan for getting the rest of the town on board. Jane was really the one who sparked the grassroots campaign out here in Loudoun.
2) Had you heard of Triangle MM before launching your campaign? They are another group running a Meatless Monday community program in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
I’ve definitely heard of them! I actually contacted the team from Triangle MM to talk about how they got things going down there. What they’ve done is really inspiring!
3) You have a website, Facebook page and many restaurant participants. Are their other Meatless Monday efforts taking place?
Last week, the Leesburg Town Council issued a proclamation supporting Meatless Mondays, which I guess makes it official here in the county seat. Also, the Loudoun Green Business Challenge is awarding points this year for the first time to organizations that make an effort to reduce consumption of meat and dairy through initiatives such as Meatless Monday.
4) How has the response been so far? Are your neighbors embracing the campaign?
We’ve gotten a lot of support from people throughout the community! The majority of people I talk to understand the reasons we’re doing this and are very positive about it. Then there are people who hadn’t ever really thought about changing their diet but now want to try it, which is awesome!
Of course, there are a few folks who will challenge me with comments like, “Why would I ever want to give up meat?” I actually welcome those types of questions, because they open the door to a conversation we might not get to have otherwise. And usually after we’ve talked a bit, I can tell they’re at least thinking about it.
5) What actions are you planning next?
Jane and I would like to do some things that build community among the participating restaurants, like hosting some social gatherings where restaurant owners can get together and discuss how things are going. We’re also talking about doing some special events around town every few months to keep the Meatless Mondays excitement. For example, in October Jane’s restaurant, Shoes Cup & Cork Club, is hosting a book signing and tasting with Meatless Monday food writer Kim O’Donnel.
We’ll also continue to reach out to other restaurants in the county. Right now we’re focused on the town of Leesburg, which is home to about 115-120 restaurants —13 of which are now on board with Meatless Monday. Once Leesburg is up and running, we’ll start taking the message to the next town!