Ready, fire, aim

Everyone knows that the federal government moves at the speed of a super slo-mo video. Government lobbyists, on the other hand, can attain warp speed whenever they need to.

Employees of the U.S. House of Representatives who eat in the Longworth cafeteria saw political activism in, well, action in June when someone got the idea to promote Meatless Mondays. One day in early June, a sign appeared at one of the stations in the cafeteria servery. According to published accounts, the station was touting some new vegetarian options. 

Within days, the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition (FAWC)—a lobbying group that represents beef, chicken and pork ranchers and producers—fired off a letter to the House Administration Committee and to Restaurant Associates (RA), the management firm that runs foodservice in the House. Complaining that Meatless Mondays is a “tool of animal rights and environmental organizations who seek to publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production,” FAWC demanded an end to the program.

That was that. Meatless Mondays closed faster than a Broadway flop. United Press International quoted Dan Weiser, spokesperson for the House Administration’s Chief Administrative Office, as saying that the cafeteria was never going to go meatless. RA was just seeking to promote vegetarian and vegan options in the cafeteria.

“It was one sign, one station, one day,” Weiser said.

A lobbyist for FAWC, Steve Kopperud, told Politico.com that the group isn’t against vegetarian food; it was the use of the term Meatless Mondays to which FAWC objected.

This is not the first time the federal government has felt the wrath of the meat industry over Meatless Mondays. Last year, a similar attempt was made at the USDA cafeteria, in the employee newsletter. USDA officials quickly apologized, saying the newsletter article had not been approved. But that didn’t stop two congressmen from venting their spleens. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Steve King, both Republicans from Iowa, took to Twitter to denounce the idea.

“I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt (sic) a meatless Monday,” Grassley tweeted. King followed that with, “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!!! At the Dept. Of Agriculture? Heresy! I’m not grazing there. I will have double rib-eye Mondays instead.”

I’m not sure how I feel about Meatless Mondays. On the one hand, it is a catchy way to call people’s attention to the fact that man does not live by beef—or pork or chicken—alone, and I know of several institutions where Meatless Mondays have been embraced. On the other hand, why can’t foodservice providers come up with a way to simply promote the consuming of a wide variety of foods, both plant- and animal-based? That’s how I try to approach my dining habits. 

But if the Longworth/RA effort was in fact designed to promote vegetarian choices and not a plan to remove all meat from the café for even one day, wasn’t FAWC just a little too quick to pull the trigger and fire off its missive to the House? 

There should be some middle ground here. Aren’t fruit and vegetable farmers constituents too? Why shouldn’t we be advocating for their products as well? What we need is dialogue, not demagoguery. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources