This past September, a group of us who are CAA volunteers and also students at the University of Minnesota started a campaign to get more meatless options in the University’s dining halls on Mondays. As the campaign coordinator, I’m reporting on the progress we’ve made toward reaching our goal.
Bringing the campaign to the University of Minnesota would have many benefits. Aside from this ultimate goal, the process of campaigning is also a powerful means of outreach. We are engaging students, faculty, alumni, University departments, student groups, and community members in a conversation about the effects of animals agriculture and the benefits of a Meatless Monday program.
In early September, CAA’s Executive Director Unny Nambudiripad and I met with Scott Pampuch (Executive Chef) and Alyssa Lundberg (Sustainability Coordinator) of University Dining Services. We told them about our desire to get more meatless options into the dining halls. In our discussion, we focused on how a meatless day would benefit public health; air, water, and land quality; and animal welfare.
While University Dining Services was receptive to our concerns, even agreeing with many of them, we could see that there was a lot of work ahead of us. They spent a lot of time telling us about what it would take to implement changes in the dining halls. After learning about their decision-making process, we realized that we need to show that this campaign has the support of more than just our student group.
Here’s what our campaign has accomplished so far:
- We created a petition asking the University Dining Services to “be proactive in combatting world hunger, global warming, mass animal cruelty and suffering, and global health pandemics.” We asked them to “consider enabling students to discuss and confront these issues by choosing not to serve meat on Mondays.”
- We launched our campaign at Twin Cities Veg Fest, a festival for compassionate living attended by more than 2,000 people, many of whom are University students. Throughout the festival, we staffed a table where festival attendees had an opportunity to learn about Meatless Monday and sign the petition. We got hundreds of signatures and piqued the interest of the Minnesota Daily. Currently, our petition has over 500 signatures.
- We worked with Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon to create a Meatless Monday Proclamation. On the morning of Twin Cities Veg Fest, Cam spoke about the resolution and why he is in support of it.
- The Minnesota Daily published a front-page feature about Meatless Monday that highlighted some of the facts provided in our brochure and outlined our goals. Almost immediately, a flow of comments appeared on the Minnesota Daily’s website and created a dialogue among students. The feature was quickly followed by a string of letters to the editor and opinion columns. One of the letters talked about what effect a day without meat might have for the agricultural industry. The other letter focused on the University’s land grant history as well as nostalgic tales of rural Minnesota and the importance of the meat industry to their families. Three letters in support followed. One of those letters, written by someone not associated with CAA, illustrated an impressive awareness of the implications of meat consumption. Another letter focused on the public health benefits of Meatless Monday and was written by graduate student and registered dietician, Kristina DeMuth. The third letter was written by me, the campaign coordinator, and reiterated our statements made in the petition and brochure. Most recently, the Wake Magazine featured an article about our campaign.
- While we are excited to see our initiative get so much attention and pleased with the dialogue it is generating, we need a bigger show of community support. Turning to fellow student groups, as well as University faculty, we are collecting public endorsements. So far, we have collected five of these vital statements in support of the campaign.
- We are supplying University Dining Services with resources that could help them to implement the Meatless Monday initiative.
As we begin the second semester, we look forward to meeting again with members of University Dining Services. As we continue to spread the word and gain support, we hope that University Dining Services can give us some more concrete answers.
We appreciate any help you can offer us in our campaign for Meatless Monday at the University of Minnesota. Please let me know if you know of a person or group of people in the University of Minnesota or surrounding community who would be open to endorsing our campaign. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for joining our efforts to reduce animal suffering.