St. Catherine’s school is a private institution that serves 890 girls from junior kindergarten through high school. Their focus on fostering leadership and their extensive college prep program is fueled by a daily lunch of local, whole foods and weekly Meatless Mondays. We spoke with St. Catherine’s food director Cece Parrish, who offers a look at the connection between diet and education.
Why did you decide to go meatless on Monday?
We have been focused on reducing our program’s waste, both directly (what ends up in our trash) and indirectly (how much waste is associated with foods before it gets to us). We learned of Meatless Monday and visited the website. It took off from there as St. Catherine’s is equally interested in bringing nutritional and environmental awareness to the school community.
What measures does St. Catherine’s take to insure that all students are eating healthfully?
The goal is to promote mindfulness and moderation. For example, fresh whole fruit and yogurt are offered each day, while traditional desserts are offered only one day a week. In a girl’s school environment, we want our students to enjoy meals and understand how foods nourish them, versus creating negative thought processes ("this is a bad food’).
How do meals served at school impact a child’s lifelong eating habits?
Whether they pack their own or eat off the menu, the school dining room is a major player in a student’s food experience during their most formative years. If the dining room is simply a place to offer the quickest, cheapest, easiest foods, what do the children learn? School meals are the best way to educate children about making balanced choices when it comes to food.
Do you feel that Meatless Mondays are an economically feasible project for school cafeterias to undertake?
Absolutely. Meat protein is almost always more expensive than other foods (like pastas, veggies, rice, legumes).
What has the student response been to Meatless Mondays?
The students’ response has been overwhelmingly positive! They have enthusiastically voiced their opinions and have offered suggestions for "Meatless Monday’ meals themselves. A favorite among St. Catherine’s girls has been the Portobello Pizza, a recipe we discovered on the Meatless Monday website.