What marks the start of spring for you? In New England when I was young, it was daffodils poking through the mud. In Hawaii, where we're blessed with beautiful weather, fragrant flowers and new life year round, it might be harder to put your finger on. But wherever we are in the world, spring carries with it a sense of renewal and possibility.
This year, don't be surprised if you see some folks marking the new season by inviting passersby in the street to taste some delicious vegetarian food and consider taking a first step towards making long lasting, healthy changes to their diet. This year on or around March 20th, the first day of spring, participants in Meatout around the country and the world will coordinate to pass out samples of plant-based dishes to 10,000 newcomers curious about vegetarian and vegan food. Meatout is organized by FARM, a national non-profit, public interest group that advocates for farm animal rights. Meatout was inaugurated in 1985, and has since grown to become the world's largest grassroots diet education program, reaching all fifty states and a host of other countries including Spain, France, Germany and Italy.
The success of Meatout has paralleled the rising awareness in mainstream society of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. As quoted on the Meatout homepage, several prestigious health advocacy organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and the American Heart Association, have followed suit by inaugurating their own campaigns to encourage people to adopt a plant-based diet. As recently as January 31st, the USDA announced their revised dietary guidelines which included the following praise for a plant-based diet: "Vegetarian-style eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes -- lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and lower total mortality. Several clinical trials have documented that vegetarian eating patterns lower blood pressure."1
Of course, any step towards going meatless is a step in the right direction, even if it's only for one day out of the year. But if March 20th leaves you with a good taste in your mouth, why not try continuing the tradition one day a week? Meatless Mondays is a campaign by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that seeks to help folks cut their meat consumption by 15% in order to help their health and the health of the planet by cutting out meat one day a week. Why Monday? Their website explains, "For most Americans the week begins on Monday. On Monday we move from the freedom of the weekend back to the structure of work or school. We set our intentions for the next six days. We plan ahead and evaluate progress. From an early age we internalize this rhythm. And studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet."2
Great American Meatout
To celebrate the Great American Meatout this year, Down to Earth will be sampling a variety of vegetarian meat substitutes at all store locations on Monday, March 21st! This is also the same day we celebrate Meatless Mondays! Receive 10% off on selected vegetarian meat substitutes every Monday in our chill and frozen departments. Look for this tag on the shelf strips:
Down to Earth supports Meatless Mondays by offering 10% off selected veggie meats in Chill and Frozen every Monday. Chief Vegetarian Officer Mark Fergusson explains, “Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to go meatless on Mondays by giving them big savings on great tasting meat alternatives. By eating less meat people can reduce global warming, protect the environment, and improve their health” says Fergusson. “There are only positive benefits to going meatless, with no unwelcome trade-offs or unintended negative side effects.”
So why not take this opportunity on March 20th to do a "spring cleaning" of your eating habits? Throw out old habits that don't fit, dust off cooking skills you forgot you had and dive into a new world of delicious tastes, better health and a lighter impact on the environment. You'll be in the good company of thousands around the world who are trying meatless meals for the first time. And maybe taking that first step towards better health will be easier knowing that you're joining a growing community of healthier, happier people when you do.