Warriors for Animal Rights Club introduces more inclusive lunch options with Meatless Mondays



Warriors for Animal Rights Club was founded in Oct. 2021 and serves to advance the rights and protections of animals. One of their first initiatives was to educate students and staff about the benefits of a more plant-based diet. In collaboration with Sasha Palmer, Director of Food Services at the Public Schools of Brookline, the club helped implement Meatless Mondays in the spring semester of the 2021-22 school year.

For many vegetarian students, the school cafeteria can be a daunting place. With meat often serving as the main component of many meals, finding a satisfactory and nutritious lunch can be a challenge.

Meat is its own category in national school lunch requirements set by the United States Department of Agriculture, so schools are required to either include meat or meat equivalents in lunches. Because of this, students who do not eat meat, either because of personal choices, religion or allergies, are often left without a hot lunch. Campaigns such as Meatless Mondays strive to help people to think more about ecological impact and help school lunches become more inclusive.

Meatless Mondays is a global movement established in 2003 by Sid Lerner, and since March of the 2021-22 school year, the high school has been participating in Meatless Mondays.

The movement to bring Meatless Mondays to the high school was initiated by the Warriors for Animal Rights Club (WARC), which seeks to educate the community about the benefits of a plant-based diet, lessen negative environmental impact, protect animals and promote personal health.

In a statement released by the WARC, the club said swapping to meatless options provides many environmental benefits.

“Plant-based food takes less land, water, energy and other resources to produce than meat,” the statement read. “The production of plant-based foods also creates fewer greenhouse gasses, which contribute to climate change.”

The WARC worked jointly with Brookline Director of Food Services, Sasha Palmer.

Hanna Szelényi, sophomore and member of WARC, worked closely on the project. According to Szelényi, while the club was closely involved in the process regarding Meatless Mondays at BHS, they were not directly involved regarding the elementary schools. Instead, cafeteria staff from K-8 schools worked with PSB food services to coordinate their Meatless Mondays. However, the club plans to work more directly with elementary schools moving forward so that they can plan lessons for K-8 students on plant-based diets.

“Originally, our goal was to simply implement Meatless Mondays, but now we are focusing on educating K-12 students and staff on why eating more plant-based foods is important and why Brookline participates in Meatless Mondays,” Szelényi said.

With the help of Spanish teacher Emily McGinnis and Dean of Student Support Systems Brian Poon, the club planned a lesson that was shown to advisories during T-Block on Wed, Dec. 14.

McGinnis said that she and the WARC wanted to spark discussion amongst the students about Meatless Mondays.

“There were a couple of turn and talk questions because we wanted the lessons to be interactive,” McGinnis said. “We also included a video, which was really informative.”

Sophomore Eden Grossman said she likes Meatless Mondays due to the certainty they bring.

“I like Meatless Mondays because I know that I will 100 percent be able to get food from the school, and I don’t have to worry about it,” Grossman said.

Szelényi said that as a vegetarian, she is glad there is a wider variety of options available now.

“There are a lot more meatless options now. In elementary and middle school I would usually have to bring lunch from home as it wasn’t guaranteed that there would be a meatless lunch at school,” Szelényi said.

According to McGinnis, students had mixed reactions to the implementation of Meatless Mondays. Some students questioned the impact Meatless Mondays had on the environment, but others praised the school for having more plant-based and vegetarian options.

McGinnis said it’s important to consider a variety of student opinions regarding Meatless Mondays.

“Some students might be skeptical about the impact Meatless Monday has, and others might be really excited about the impact,” McGinnis said. “I think these conversations are really interesting to hear because it brings up so many different opinions and experiences, both positive and negative.”