By Spencer Feingold

In a major victory for the advocacy group Meatless Monday, New York City public schools will start providing vegetarian-only breakfast and lunch menus every Monday.

The new policy was adopted thanks to changing attitudes and a growing awareness of the damaging health and environmental effects related to meat consumption, Ron Hernandez, the managing director of Meatless Monday, told Cheddar on Tuesday.

“People really recognize that a diet that has more diverse options in it ーmore fruits, more vegetables, more grains, and less meat ー is ultimately better for you,” Hernandez said.

Reducing meat consumption also helps to mitigate the environmental effects of meat production, which requires an enormous amount of land and water use. According to the United Nations, 80 percent of agricultural land is used for livestock, which makes up only 18 percent of calories consumed worldwide.

Meat production is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and is considered an “emissions-intensive sector” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Meatless Mondays are good for our students, communities, and the environment,” said New York City Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “Our 1.1 million students are taking the next step towards healthier, more sustainable lives.”

Meatless Monday was found as a non-profit in 2003 with a simple message: one day a week, cut the meat.

So far, the group has helped usher in the policy at institutions in 40 countries. In Norway, for example, the government stopped serving meat on Mondays at all military installations in 2013.

But Hernandez says the adoption in New York City schools is especially important because it brings the message directly to children.

“Young people tend to gravitate to this idea,” he said.

The founder of Meatless Monday, Sid Lerner, called the announcement a “major milestone” and praised the city for getting “children on a healthier track, as well as making a positive impact on our environment.”

The policy was piloted during the spring of 2018 at 15 schools in Brooklyn and will be implemented citywide at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

“Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers' health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We're expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.”

For full interview click here.