It was shocking to some and intriguing to others when in late February both dining halls at Bowdoin College served an entirely vegetarian menu. The event -- dubbed Meatless Monday -- was originally created by the Johns Hopkins University of Public Health in an effort to raise awareness of the benefits of a less meat-centric diet. The meal was the first of many events Bowdoin is planning on campus for its own "Meet What You Eat" initiative. Other events include lectures on sustainable fisheries and green business in Maine, where the college is based. Meatless Monday -- which has popped up at over 30 colleges around the country -- was introduced and supported by the Environmental Studies Department and other student campus groups.
While both dining halls posted average numbers for a Monday -- about 1,000 students and faculty -- the event drew controversy. Some students felt their right to choose what they eat was being infringed upon. In protest, a handful of students barbecued meat next to one dining hall, while others sold fast food hamburgers at the entrance.
Supporters say that rather than trying to impose vegetarianism, Meatless Monday was meant to educate students about America's meat consumption habits. Located in the small town of Brunswick, Bowdoin is committed to local sustainability and purchases many ingredients from farmers in the area. But it has lots of hungry carnivores to feed, and the college also requires large shipments of meat that sometimes come from far outside its home town.
By substituting non-meat options for a single meal, Bowdoin showed how to make a difference in carbon emissions, and in the diets of the student body. To make up for the lack of cow, the vegetarian menus featured high protein grains and beans.
The organizers of Meatless Monday are still gauging the campus' reaction, and deciding whether to repeat the event. They say that if students take the initiative's real intentions to heart, and consider what -- and how much -- meat they consume at their next meat-ful Monday, the event will be well worth the controversy.
Marguerite Mariscal is a senior studying English and History at Bowdoin College.