On June 23, GRACE Communications Foundation released the new Eat Well Guide, the largest online directory of sustainable food vendors in the country. The free resource features over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, farmers’ markets, food co-ops and other purveyors of local, sustainably produced food, spanning the entire United States.
The guide allows people to search by location or category so they can find food they know was produced in a safe, humane and sustainable manner.
How many people will it benefit? A 2014 poll by Cone Communications revealed that 83% of Americans consider sustainability when buying food and 81% would like to see more options that protect the environment. This demand is evident in the enormous increase in farmers’ markets over the last 20 years, which are up 370% from 1994 and 123% from 2004.
“People want locally grown, sustainably produced food, so we’re making it easier for them to find it,” said Dawn Brighid, project director of the Eat Well Guide. “Most American shoppers take into account where their food came from when they’re grocery shopping. They want to support food producers who are doing their best by their customers, their workers and the planet.”
In addition to fulfilling a vital need for consumers, the Eat Well Guide helps sustainable food producers and retailers reach individuals beyond their usual customer-base, providing a much-needed marketing boost to small farms, farmers’ markets, restaurants and food co-ops that are often outmuscled by large food corporations’ huge advertising budgets.
“We know that sustainable food vendors offer products that consumers want, but it’s difficult to compete with the enormous advertising budgets of industrial food producers,” said Chris Hunt, food program director at GRACE. “The Eat Well Guide helps to level the playing field by making it easy for consumers all around the country to find these sustainable food vendors for free.”
To be included in the Eat Well Guide, farms must use sustainable practices to produce food while protecting the environment, human health, workers, surrounding communities and animal welfare. Restaurants, markets, food co-ops and other businesses must demonstrate a sincere commitment to sourcing local, sustainably produced food. The guide also lists education and advocacy organizations that work to improve our food system, so you can find who’s active in your area.
The Eat Well Guide can help even seasoned sustainable food enthusiasts find new options close to home, or lead the way to new local food scenes while traveling. Users might even stumble upon one of the largest rooftop farms, a late night farmers’ market or a sustainable food truck. You can also suggest a listing to help the Guide continue to grow and evolve.
For consumers, the Eat Well Guide eliminates the guessing game and helps them find sustainable food options no matter where they are. So if you’ve always wished you could pull up a map of nearby sustainable food spots – well, wish granted!
This Independence day don’t just wear red, white and blue – nosh on patriotic dishes, too! To inspire you we’ve rounded-up 10 tasty, meatless recipes from Meatless Monday bloggers and friends.
Still hungry? Add one of these 15 Mouthwatering Meatless Monday Burgers to the line-up!
This week Meatless Monday released a beautifully designed, free collection of 30 meatless lunch recipes called Meatless Monday Goes to School. The e-cookbook addresses the need of K-12 schools for delicious vegetarian recipes that fulfill the meat/meat alternate component of the National School Lunch Program’s (NSLP) meal pattern.
Providing healthy, delicious meals for students is more important than ever in light of rising childhood obesity rates. All over the U.S., school foodservice providers are doing their part by working to ensure that the meals they serve not only comply with the nutrition standards set by the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, but are also appealing to the kids they serve. After all, “it’s not nutrition if the students don’t eat it,” as many school food advocates have said.
Staff dietitian at Meatless Monday, Diana Rice, R.D., curated the recipes from current Meatless Monday participants as well as brands and organizations that promote healthy school dining.
“When children learn to enjoy occasional vegetarian meals,” says Rice in the book’s introduction, “they’re practicing a habit that will contribute to a lifetime of good health. What’s more, since meatless foods require fewer environmental resources to produce, participating in Meatless Monday is a way for children to know they’re doing their part to protect the environment.”
Rice also makes the point that diets low in meat and high in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains are associated with reduced obesity rates, and also with reduced rates of diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Nutrition experts agree it is important to offer plant-based options that fit in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), as school lunches provide growing children with the nutrients they need for optimal physical and academic development.
“Yet there is a shortage of child-friendly meatless bulk recipes that fit the NSLP requirements,” says Rice. “The lack of resources prompted our organization to approach Meatless Monday partners for recipe contributions.”
Karla Dumas, a registered dietitian on staff with The Humane Society, collaborated on the book and agrees with the strong need for such a resource. “Working for a decade in the field of child nutrition, I have been encouraged to see schools increasingly use Meatless Monday and similar initiatives to support a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Schools are hungry for recipes and resources to help with these programs that are building a healthier future for our kids,” Dumas remarked.
Contributing recipe partners include the Humane Society, Barilla, Beyond Meat, JTM Food Group, SunButter, The Mushroom Council, The American Egg Board, the National School Foodservice Management Institute, The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, The Lunchbox, and participating school districts across the country.
Baltimore City Public Schools were the first district to participate in Meatless Monday, back in 2009. Today, over 50 school districts and dozens of individual schools “go Meatless Monday.”
The e-cookbook is available as a free download from http://bit.ly/mmk12cookbook. There are also free resources like posters and a K-12 School Toolkit available at MeatlessMonday.com.
One reason Meatless Monday has caught on all over the world (38 countries and counting) is it’s a small, simple step each of us can take that can actually have a profound impact on the environment.
For example, it takes approximately 1,850 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, verses just 39 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables. If we all skip meat one day a week that’s an incredible amount of water being conserved. The same is true for energy, since meat production uses an enormous amount of fossil fuel energy compared with grain-based protein.
And here’s another simple thing we can all do to benefit the environment – stop drinking bottled water. Instead drink tap water in refillable bottles.
Just as with meat, producing bottled water uses a great deal of water. In fact it takes three times more water to make each plastic bottle as it does to fill it.
The production of bottled water also uses an enormous amount of energy – the equivalent each year of what it takes to fuel 1.5 million cars. In addition, transporting bottled water across thousands of miles spews carbon dioxide into the air, complicating our efforts to combat global climate change.
Then there’s the energy spent cleaning up the billions of plastic bottles that are produced each year. Sadly, only about a third of them get recycled. The rest end up in landfills or littering our neighborhoods, parks, and waterways. It seems like a huge amount of resources wasted when you consider people could simply be drinking tap water.
Marketers have spent millions convincing us that bottled water is better than tap, but the truth is tap water regularly beats bottled water in taste tests. In terms of safety, U.S. tap water is subject to more stringent safety regulations than bottled water. And, as much as 40 percent of bottled water is actually tap water anyway!
People who try Meatless Monday often discover they’re not missing a thing giving up meat one day a week and the same is true of people who try tap water – it tastes just fine. If your local tap water does have a mineral or chlorine taste that’s easily remedied with a faucet filter or filtering pitcher.
Going meatless once a week also saves money for many people, and there are definitely savings switching from bottled water to tap. Drinking 2 liters of tap water a day costs about 50 cents. Compare that with the cost of drinking 2 liters of bottled water a day – it’s huge!
Many restaurants who feature Meatless Monday menus also promote tap water to customers. Dig-Inn, a chain we recently profiled, says on their site, “In the name of mindfulness and sustainability, we’re dropping bottled water from now on…offering $2 reusable containers and a variety of seasonally infused filtered NYC water. Join the movement– #DROPTHEBOTTLE.”
Another successful movement is “I Love NY Water” which uses the iconic logo to promote New York’s famous water to both tourists and residents, encouraging people to support “Refills not Landfills.”
So consider enjoying your next Meatless Monday meal with a refillable bottle of tap water instead of a disposable plastic bottle. The planet will thank you.
Rip Esseltyn is a real man. Okay, he got the nickname Rip when he was two days old, not because of his lean ripped look. But it fits. An all-American swimmer in college, he became a world class triathlete, which is when he adopted a ‘plant-strong’ diet. After ten years in that grueling profession he needed a break. Friends suggested he might want to be a firefighter.
“It’s an awesome profession,” said Rip. “You help people, you save lives. It’s like a big old slumber party. You get to go through red lights and stop signs with sirens blazing. And you do good deeds. Cook good food. No two shifts are ever the same.”
He applied to the Austin fire department, one of 4000 applying for twelve positions. “It’s more competitive than getting into Harvard,” he joked. It took two years but in 1997, he made the transition from full time triathlete to full time firefighter.
Triathlete, Texas firefighter, stand-up guy – he definitely qualifies as a real man. And he grills veggies. And occasionally fruits.
“At the firehouse we had a nice grill in the backyard and we would grill every chance we got. Portabella mushrooms, bell peppers, corn on the cob, onions, every kind of squash you can imagine, white button mushrooms, romaine lettuce…oh and pineapples. I love grilling.”
Of course, when he first started at the firehouse, they were doing a lot of grilling but it wasn’t veggies. “Oh it was an abomination,” recalled Rip.
“I like to say the four major food groups of the Texas male firefighter are: Big old honking burgers with cheese and mayonnaise on white bread with a side of deep fried French fries; Beef fajitas with sour cream and cheese, full fatty beans and white rice – and if there are onions and bell peppers they’re slathered in oil and butter; Pizza with as much pepperoni, ham and hamburger meat you can throw on that guy; And the other food group is bluebell ice cream. They have bowls of bluebell for breakfast lunch and dinner.”
For years, he brought his own food, did his own thing. But then in April 2003, Rip was sitting out of the front porch of the fire station with a couple of his fellow firefighters and they made a bet on who had the lowest cholesterol. It’s fortunate they did because one of the men, whose family had a history of heart disease, found out his cholesterol was 344 mg/dl. That put a scare into the whole crew and over a period of time they started to change what they ate. Rip challenged his friend with the dangerously high cholesterol to go all in with a plant-based diet for 28 days and see what happened. The cholesterol number plummeted to 197 mg/dl.
“Vegetables, fruits, and tofu and other meat substitutes are delicious when cooked over coals or a wood fire. Toss them lightly with a marinade first. Spray the bars of the grill with a fat-free cooking spray or employ one of those neat-o perforated skillets or cooking baskets.”
In his latest book, My Beef with Meat, he includes a recipe for BBQ Seitan Grilling Kabobs and a Grilled Romaine salad. He also warns that when you’re grilling any kind of meat – chicken, beef, pork, or fish – “what you are really doing is growing carcinogens on it. There are two that appear only in grilled meat: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS.)”
He told us that the great thing about veggies is they don’t have the inherent building blocks to create any of these carcinogens. “Grill veggies and you get all char and no carcinogens.”
For the last five years Rip’s been working with Whole Foods to spread the word about eating plant-based food. He has a line of Engine 2 health food products, exclusive to Whole Foods, that includes everything from cereals and almond milk to pizza crust and veggie burgers.
Finally, he talked with us about how fat and cholesterol in animal products can clog arteries to the heart, head, and…other extremities important to real men. In contrast, when you’re eating whole plant-based food it keeps your blood vessels useful and elastic. “So I’d say real men eat plants,” said Rip, “and drop the blue pill in exchange for a bunch of green leafy vegetables.”
Father’s Day is just around the corner! Why not dazzle Dad with one of these cookout-worthy recipes from our Meatless Monday bloggers and friends? Even if he’s a hardcore carnivore, he won’t be able to resist these hearty and delicious meatless dishes – they rock as much as he does!
Hungry for more? Check out these 15 Mouthwatering Meatless Monday Burgers!
Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) is a national non-profit that’s been transforming lives for 25 years, helping prepare high school students for college, and careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Several years ago C-CAP teamed up with Meatless Monday to create a contest for high school seniors across the country aspiring to be future famous chefs: create innovative meatless recipes and win college scholarships.
This year’s challenge was to create a recipe that turns a traditionally meat-based dish into a healthy plant-based dish. Students became head chefs in their classrooms, working with their culinary arts teachers to convert meat-based recipes by exploring and applying new cooking techniques and using vegetables, grains, and legumes as the basis of their dishes. Many were inspired to transform their family’s favorite meat dishes into healthier vegetarian options.
The recipe submissions were judged on originality, flavor, healthfulness, ease of preparation, and writing ability. The judges evaluating the submissions for the C-CAP Meatless Monday Makeover Recipe Contest were:
• Kelvin Fernandez: Executive Chef, La Marina restaurant NYC
• Jason Weiner: Executive Chef, Almond, NYC and Bridgehampton
• Diana Rice, RD, Meatless Monday Recipe Editor
• Scott Uehlein, Corporate Chef, Canyon Ranch.
And the 1st prize, a $5,000 scholarship went to… Jenna Kraus! For her Spaghetti and Meatballs Take #2. Jenna, a senior at Barry Goldwater High School in Arizona, used spaghetti squash as an alternative to pasta and replaced the ground meat with walnuts. The walnuts provided a similar texture and meaty aspect while making the dish vegetarian. In addition to the scholarship, Jenna and her teacher also won an all-inclusive stay at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, where they’ll be able to experience healthy cooking practices first-hand from Corporate Chef Scott Uehlein.
2nd prize, a $3,000 scholarship, went to Jacob Trinh from Delaware County Technical School in Philadelphia. His Cajun-plant Tacos are a spin on the classic fish tacos, only he replaced the fish with meaty eggplant.
3rd prize, a $2,000 scholarship, went to Jonathan Hernandez from DuVal High School in Washington, D.C. Jonathan’s Quinoa Veggie Burger with a Sweet Tomato Compote was a twist on the classic American hamburger, only using the high-protein grain quinoa instead of beef.
“Through this contest, student chefs were guided by their teachers on recipe writing and development and were able to showcase their talent creating exciting meatless recipes,” enthused C-CAP president Susan Robbins. “We greatly appreciate The Monday Campaigns providing high school seniors with the opportunity for scholarships while promoting healthy eating in high schools and communities throughout the nation.”
Sid Lerner, founder of the Meatless Monday movement, reiterated his support for the contest. “We’re thrilled to team up with C-CAP for the annual recipe contest. Our goal is to motivate aspiring chefs to create tasty and healthy meatless meals. This year, we challenged C-CAP students to convert traditional meat-based dishes into meatless versions. We are excited for America to taste the winning C-CAP students’ imaginative meatless renditions.”
Make these delicious recipes from the talented young chefs part of your Meatless Monday by clicking here. And you’ll be able to say, when they go on to become famous chefs at exclusive restaurants, that you sampled some of their earliest work.
Acknowledgment: Thank you to Ronzoni for its product contribution to the schools.
On June 2nd, The Long Beach City Council voted 7-2 in favor of a resolution officially supporting the Meatless Monday campaign. Long Beach joins Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and several other large American cities in supporting the international movement that aims to improve health and conserve resources.
The item was brought to the attention of Councilman Al Austin by one of his constituents, Drew Alexis. The Long Beach resident cited a 2010 UCLA study that showed over 40 percent of Long Beach children are obese and proposed that a more plant-based diet could help curb that number. Alexis also pointed out the numerous ecological benefits of eating less meat, including the amount of water saved by consuming less animal products, which is particularly relevant given the severe drought in Southern California.
Councilman Austin along with the supporter of the motion, Councilwoman Suzie Price, were careful to explain that the resolution was not a mandate, intended to force people to abstain from meat dishes on Mondays. Instead, they focused on the positive message that the Meatless Monday movement conveys.
“If even for one day a week people think about what they’re eating and consider trying new, healthier menu options, then this resolution will have accomplished its purpose,” Austin said.
Councilwoman Price has already begun Meatless Monday family dinners, explaining to her children that making smart choices at the beginning of the week can lead to more smart choices later in the week.
“This is just another opportunity to raise awareness within our city and to encourage our residents to think about their lifestyle, their welfare, their future health and really to take it as an opportunity to choose if they want to try something different on Mondays,” said Price. “Why not give it a shot?”
Councilman Daryl Supernaw and Councilwoman Stacy Mungo both voted against the proposal. Mungo brought up the negative impact the resolution could have on local restaurants. “I’ve had calls from some businesses, specifically that serve meat and steak and things like that, and it really contributes to the health of their business,” Mungo said.
Alexis countered by saying, “Monday is traditionally not a busy day for restaurants, thus a community-based campaign to promote meatless meals on Monday may serve as a very good business opportunity for many of our local restaurants .” But Mungo said she didn’t think it was the city’s place to make proclamations based on preferences, especially if it could hurt business.
“It is not a personal preference issue. It’s affecting everyone,” said a Long Beach woman, refuting Mungo. “It’s affecting the environment, it’s affecting the rainforest, top soil erosion, the drought.”
Perhaps the most persuasive speaker at the initial discussion of the resolution was a very articulate eight year old named Genesis Butler who Alexis brought with him. She wowed the council with her three minute message, building on Alexis’s point, stating that the water used to produce a pound of meat was equivalent to a few months of showering. She pointed to the historic drought that’s been gripping the state for nearly five years in urging the council to adopt the resolution. “Kids like me deserve a future where they won’t have to worry where they’re getting their water from,” Butler said.
Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaigns initiatives, sought to clarify the spirit of the movement in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s really all about choice and moderation. It’s not about making everyone vegans or vegetarians.”
What country eats more meat per capita than any other in the world? If you guessed the U.S. you were close, but the burger-loving United States actually finished second to…Luxembourg! That’s right, Luxembourg. The only Grand Duchy in the world. Small in size but big in terms of meat consumption, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Whether it’s Judd mat Gaardebounen (smoked collar of pork with broad beans), Thüringer (sausages that taste like a spicy version of German bratwurst) or Ardennes ham, Luxembourgers love their meat.
So we were both surprised and excited to hear that there was interest forming a chapter of Meatless Monday. We were even more excited to meet one of their members – chef and food journalist Anne Faber (of Anne’s Kitchen) who was in the U.S. in April promoting her second cookbook.
We sat down with her and started talking about what a logo might look like, and before you knew it a carrot was growing out of the words ‘Meat Free Monday’ and we were getting fired up about a future launch.
And now it’s happened! Meat Free Monday Luxembourg took to the streets during National Vegetarian Week, armed with lots of fruit & veggies, some delicious-looking muffins, and someone dressed up as a chicken. The charismatic Anne even managed to attract some media attention.
Known as the Cultural Capital of Europe, Luxembourg is now not only the home of music, fine art, and wonderful architecture – it’s also home to Meat Free Monday.
May it be good for the health of Luxembourgers as well as the health of our planet.
Dig Inn is a thriving chain of fast-casual restaurants that’s making healthy food accessible like never before. As part of their ‘Spring Into Summer’ promotion, Dig Inn is collaborating with Meatless Monday. “It’s less about a marketing tactic to get people in the door on Monday,” said founder Adam Eskin. “It’s more, we’re in support of anything that furthers the cause. We see it as an opportunity to support an organization and a movement.”
Offering Meatless Monday options is not a big stretch for Dig Inn, since 70% of the food they serve is vegetables. “We cook everything fresh here every day…and it’s crazy the amount of vegetables that we cook,” said Dig Inn chef Matt Weingarten. When it comes to meat he’s most concerned about finding the right source, for the highest quality and lowest environmental impact. But when it comes to cooking and recipes, he says, “I spend more of my time thinking about how I cook our vegetables than how I cook our meat.”
Dig Inn already has eleven locations in Manhattan and by the end of 2016 they hope to be in Boston, Chicago, and L.A. They feature unique sandwiches and hearty protein-filled salads, but the signature offering is called Marketplates. You start with an entrée (salmon, steak, or veggie options like tofu) then you get to add ridiculously good hot sides (like roasted sweet potatoes and upstate mac) and cold sides (spinach w/ mango, asparagus w/radish.) By the time you get to the end of the line you want to double back and try all the things you couldn’t fit this trip through. And you get all this for around $10-12.
“Affordable food for everyone,” said Eskin. “What’s the point otherwise? If we just wanted to do fancy, high-end vegetables, we could probably do well and make money, but what impact would that have? In order to have impact, accessibility has to be on your radar. But it can’t be to the detriment of the quality of food you serve. It’s a balancing act, but what we’ve been able to do with supply and food opps has allowed us to charge a little less than everyone else.”
With no restaurant experience other than being a busboy at age 15, Eskin was asked by the equity firm he worked for to parachute in and save a flagging restaurant investment. He soon saw that what was happening in the grocery channel with Whole Foods was going to happen in the restaurant world as well. “For me the idea became wildly obvious. This type of food, in this type of setting,” he said, referring to his new Madison Park location. “With this amount of speed and accessibility, at this price point, and with this much care and commitment to the food and where it comes from.”
For him it’s about building a nice business and having fun doing it, but it’s also about effecting change. Eskin is troubled by the obesity problem in the U.S., and got positively giddy when a large group of teens sat near us, their plates overflowing with Dig Inn specials. “That’s what gets me excited. When you get’em early, it’s like, ‘You are eating kale for life, kid!’ Imagine what happens when they’re older and feeding their kids. That’s why the opportunity for us, as a business, is so important.”
The restaurant business is notoriously difficult, and when you add to that the extra prep that comes with a predominantly vegetarian menu, the desire to source ingredients locally, and relentless competition, it’s daunting.
“We didn’t pick the easiest path,” says Eskin. “Actually just the opposite. We took the most complicated and challenging path and are trying to make that work. When it does, it’s very rewarding.“
One thing they have in their favor: they’ve built solid relationships with their suppliers over time, to the point where they actually list farms where their food comes from on their menu. Whether it’s helping partners pay for seeds up front or sending them to Cornell to learn about food safety, they continue to invest in relationships and engage with partners at every level that is mutually beneficial.
Another smart practice: recruiting people from outside of the restaurant industry. “We’re getting a ton of amazing talented people who want to join us just because of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Eskin. “And we’re figuring out how to take their passion, intellect and experience and put it to use inside the four walls of our company.”
Analytics are at the core of their business. You’d expect that from a numbers guy like Eskin, but Chef Weingarten also sees their value. “Analytics are huge for helping us understand our customers’ preferences and what is selling well. I’m kind of a systems guy. I get geeky about how to get things done. And to work within this model and say, ‘hey, we can cook vegetables this fast and this good in this many locations…for me as a craftsman, I love it.” Having come from a fine dining background, he feels fortunate to have learned under masterful chefs and brings that experience to what he does every day at Dig Inn.
Thanks to analytics they could immediately answer what their most popular vegetables are – it’s seasonal, but Brussels sprouts lead over the year, with kale and cauliflower not far behind.
“We just put kale & rhubarb as one of our sides,” said Chef Weingarten.” It’s pickled so it stays firm, crispy, and juicy, both sweet & sour. Folks internally said, ‘I don’t eat rhubarb’ but they tried it and…so far it’s got a 100% conversion rate.” Success for Weingarten is to introduce people to new flavors and new foods. “To put out kohlrabi and have everyone digging on kohlrabi. And that’s just a matter of time. These kids,” he said referring to the teens, “they’re going to be down with kohlrabi.”
Just as Meatless Monday is trending upward, Dig Inn is on a similar trajectory. “We’re leading the change and that’s where we want to be,” said Weingarten. “We all want to have better food that’s more accessible at an affordable cost. And the more the big food systems adjust to that, the better it is for all.”