- 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.
- Herbert Hoover, then head of the Food Administration, spearheaded implementation of the campaign. In addition to advertising, his office created and distributed recipe booklets and menus in newspapers, magazines and pamphlets.
- The effect was overwhelming. Eventually, more than 13 million families signed a pledge to observe the Food Administration’s national meatless and wheatless conservation days.1 In November 1917, New York City hotels saved some 116 tons of meat over the course of just one week.2 According to a 1929 Saturday Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating. Lots of people discovered for the first time that they could eat less and feel no worse – frequently for the better”.
- The campaign returned during World War II and beyond, when Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman used rationing 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.
- Meatless Monday has since turned into a global movement with a wide network of participating hospitals, schools, worksites and restaurants around the world. The simplicity of Meatless Monday’s message has allowed the campaign to once again become part of the American lexicon.
- We now have campaigns that apply the Monday concept to a range of health behaviors including nutrition, physical activity, tobacco cessation, screenings and overall wellness that are being implemented in a variety of settings. 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 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)