For a city once enamored with hot sausage sandwiches, pierogis, and 25-cent wings specials, Pittsburgh has just made a huge leap. Understanding the impact that reducing meat consumption has on sustainability, the environment, and public health, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has recently signed an official proclamation recognizing every Monday in 2016 as Meatless Monday! This comes on the heels of a Meatless Monday proclamation in November of 2015.
Pittsburgh now joins millions around the globe in the Meatless Monday initiative founded by Sid Lerner and Johns Hopkins University to promote cutting out meat one day a week. As part of the city’s Live Well Pittsburgh program, the proclamation has given added boost not only for locals to think more about wellness but also for chefs to get more creative.
Although Meatless Monday first kicked off in 2003, most Pittsburghers hadn’t been aware of it. To change that, a small group of dedicated citizens, including Leila Sleiman of Justice for Animals, Natalie Ahwesh of Humane Action Pittsburgh, and Christin Bummer of Beans not Bambi, gathered together to inspire more veg options in mainstream restaurants as well as at cafeterias in schools, universities, and hospitals throughout the Steel City. Already on board is an impressive group of partners, including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh and Live Well Allegheny (a county-wide initiative to educate residents about making healthier lifestyle choices). The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Passavant, continually recognized as one of “America’s Best Hospitals,” now features Meatless Monday options and other affiliates are expected to follow.
In September, 2016, schools in Mt. Lebanon are also planning to launch Meatless Monday.
Though Pittsburgh had generally been a meat-and-pierogi kind of town, thousands of Pittsburghers did show up for the city’s first annual Pittsburgh VegFest in August, and more are expected this summer for 2016! “Pittsburgh is a progressive city, says Sleiman. So many people are ready to make changes, and want to be healthier and more environmentally friendly- they just didn’t know where to start.”
Some Pittsburgh restaurants have already welcomed the proclamation with inventive expertise. Mexi-Casa, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Dormont, long devoted to fresh and healthy ingredients, has initiated a new Meatless Monday menu loaded with vegetarian and vegan options. Café Phipps, located at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of the “Best Museum Restaurants,” has added Meatless Monday options to its already local, organic, and sustainable menu, featuring vegetables and herbs from its own rooftop garden.
The Meatless Monday Pittsburgh Facebook page regularly showcases other local restaurants bursting with Meatless Monday creativity. Some of the best, offered at the Chateau Cafe & Cakery, include: the “Berry Manilow,” a triple berry compote with toasted almonds and Brie cheese options on sweet onion bread, and the “Brussel Crowe,” a panini packed with shaved Brussel sprouts and caramelized onions. Who said Pittsburghers can’t combine healthy and humor?
“We want to make it as easy as possible for our fellow citizens to live compassionate, healthful lives,” Ahwesh says. “It just seemed like the right time to introduce it citywide. We are so happy the Mayor was supportive.”