Students Push For Vegetarian Options At New Haven School

Jan 23, 2017

A pair of eighth graders from a New Haven school want students across the state to forgo eating meat on Mondays. 

When Sophie Sonnenfeld was 12, she spent every Sunday for several months on Yale's campus, trying to get undergraduates to agree to go meatless on Mondays. It worked. And now, she and her classmate, Jack Kealey, have made it happen at Hopkins School.

"The initial push was just to get pledges from students just to go vegetarian on Mondays," Jack said.

And their classmates' reaction?

"The first round was amazing," he said. "We got about 70 students who were willing to sign up and take the pledge."

They brought the idea to their school in December, talked with the dining hall manager, gave him some recipes, and they had their first meatless Monday in January.

Here's how it works: the dining hall only makes a vegetarian entree, which is usually pasta, or veggies and starch. Tofu and other plant-based proteins could be on the menu in the future.

"Our school has been good about vegetarian entrees, but having a consistent day so that we know it's coming, that was the real push," Jack said.

Sophie said the reaction has been great. Even though some students might complain, the school has meat options at its sandwich and pasta bars for the hard-core carnivores. But for those students who took the pledge, they're sticking to plants.

"A lot of these meatless entrees happen to be a lot better for people's diets, so it's really great that we can get students interested in these meals," Sophie said. 

Both Jack and Sophie are animal activists. Jack successfully lobbied state lawmakers in 2013 to allow students to opt-out of having to dissect animals. He's been a vegetarian his whole life, and last September, he became vegan, forgoing all animal byproducts, like milk and butter. 

While red meat consumption has decreased a lot since 1970, poultry consumption has doubled, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The meat industry is also responsible for a large portion of greenhouse gases and deforestation.

Sophie and Jack said they'd like to see other students across the state pledge to not eat meat on Mondays not just for their health, but to help stem some of these larger, global issues. Which is easy when the food actually tastes good.