By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News
Folks might start noticing a little something missing from their lunch tray if they happen to pay the Kenmore Mercy Hospital cafeteria a visit on a Monday.
Under an effort spearheaded by manager of food services, Kathy McAlpine, the hospital is going meatless on Mondays. It’s all part of the Meatless Mondays program championed by former Beatles superstar Paul McCartney.
The idea is that omitting meat from your diet just one day a week will have a big effect on the environment, your health and even your pocketbook.
“The theory is based on the greenhouse gasses that are emitted from (the production of) meat,” McAlpine said. “Plant-based foods are generally healthier with less carcinogens, less cancer forming than in meats. Seventy percent of antibiotics used in the U.S. right now are used in animals. The humans that are consuming these meats are becoming immune to these antibiotics. Another big reason is it’s less expensive than buying meat. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
Meatless Mondays got started during World War I when Americans were encouraged to give up some of their staple foods to aid the war effort. World War II saw the program implemented again to help send food to war-torn Europe.
These days, the trend has less to do with war and more to do with the body and the earth.
“We’re proud of the fact that we’re kind of ahead of the curve from a green standpoint in our cafeteria and from a health standpoint too,” said Dawn Cwierley, manager of public relations at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.
Naheed Ali-Sayeed, manager for clinical nutrition at the hospital, explained that Monday is a good day to start thinking of healthier options in a person’s diet — it sets the tone for the rest of the week.
“The program promotes healthier eating because it encourages people to choose vegetables and alternative sources of protein. Hopefully Meatless Mondays will give people something to think about to make healthier choices throughout the rest of the week,” she said.
“The goal was to encourage people to eat fewer animal products, reduce saturated fat in their diet therefore lessening a person’s risk for chronic diseases like obesity and cardiovascular disease.”
McAlpine says that so far the program, which began in July, has been met with interest on both sides of the lunch line. She said the chefs in the kitchen are starting to get a little creative — and the hospital staff are coming around to the idea.
“Being that’s a hospital, most of the associates are health conscious. They look forward to seeing what meatless ideas we come up with ... they’re embracing it,” McAlpine said. “The vegetarians are loving it because those menus normally don’t come up. People who are normally meat eaters are starting to embrace the idea.”
The hospital has chosen some pretty traditional meatless dishes to kick off the program McAlpine explained. Dishes like stuffed portobella mushrooms and broccoli ziti are big hits and now the kitchen’s staff is starting to experiment with things like lentil burgers, expanding more into beans.
McAlpine is careful to note, however, that the meals patients are served in their rooms have not changed — meat is still an option for folks who perhaps have a little more on their mind than trying to experiment with new foods.
“If they’re ill, we’re trying to get them anything they want to consume just to get them to eat,” she said.
Using Meatless Mondays as a sort of trial run, McAlpine said Kenmore Mercy Hospital plans to start incorporating more meatless specials in the cafeteria throughout the week.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 116.