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Community feature: Meatless Monday at Whitsons Culinary Group

Whitsons Culinary Group has utilized a Meatless Monday campaign in the schools it serves since early 2018.
My name is Becky Ramsing, and I work at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. So CLF has worked with Meatless Monday since it began in 2003. So we are the scientific advisors for Meatless Monday. And so we make sure the materials that they put out are evidence-based and supported by research. 2003, when it was founded, Meatless Monday has grown and evolved in ways we never would have expected. So Meatless Monday works with many partners across different sectors– education, health care, restaurants, and food service. Some of their partners include– right now include TGIF, a restaurant chain that’s doing a veggie burger and advertising that veggie burger on Monday using Meatless Monday.
So we see many different sectors and institutions really being able to use Meatless Monday in the way that works best for them. Whitson’s is a food service company and they came to Meatless Monday saying that they would like to implement Meatless Monday in their schools. I am Paul Whitcomb, I am the president and CEO of Whitson’s Culinary Group. Whitson’s mission is to enhance life one meal at a time, and the meatless campaign aligns well with that. So we have about 120 school districts throughout the Northeast that we serve, and that’s roughly probably close to half a million students we have access to on any given day. I am Leslie Boritz, very proud principal of Commack High School.
I am in love with the kids at our school. To be able to offer an opportunity for them to have something that is healthy and nutritious to fuel their bodies so they can make it through the day, it’s a wonderful thing that we are able to do. We’ve adopted Meatless Monday probably within– over the course of the last year, it’s been a progression. But I think that we’ve been exploring in that plant-based protein, plant-based meal options for years. So Whitson’s is really doing a great job of using the Meatless Monday concept, implementing it in their own way. But through their success, they’re really going to be able to spread it out to a lot of other people.
This actually, this initiative started, I believe, last May as an outgrowth of working with the nutrition committee. We truly believe that the students’ voice is vital to everything that happens here at the building. And specifically with the nutrition committee, they sit with district level personnel, and parents, and students, and teachers. So, you know, there’s– all the stakeholders are represented when they meet to talk about some very important initiatives. My name’s Frank Matroianni, I’m in Commack High School. I’m in 12th grade. I’m a believer in living in moderation with everything. With eating, with all different activities. I think it’s a good idea to live your life in moderation.
Meatless Monday is a great start for the school to start introducing healthier options to the cafeteria. I’m Robin Hoolahan, and I am the Assistant– Administrative Assistant for Commack School District working for Whitson’s. I’m kind of the Jack of all trades, master of none. But for the most part, I assist our food service director, Maureen. Commack actually purchased the menu TV is for us so we have them on top, and that’s the daily menu. And then there’s a little fun fact next to each menu on the TVs. It has been a great hook to introduce them to other options. If you get into the routine of eating meat, you kind of choose the same things.
Like, you’ll have your same chicken sandwich every single day or the same tacos every single day at, like, the nacho bar. So if you don’t eat meat, that forces you outside of your comfort zone to eat foods that you might have not eaten if you didn’t do Meatless Monday. So we’re working really hard behind the scenes to find ways to offer greater variety of local, homemade, fresh products that could be implemented at the school level and received well by the students. My name is Robert Larkin, I’m one of the corporate executive chefs for Whitson’s Culinary Group. I go from account to account introducing new concepts and new food items to the students at that school location.
Trying to teach or educate children that it’s just not about the chicken nugget everyday or the slice of pizza. That there’s many more things that they can open their world up to. I really like fruits and vegetables so I got carrots and apples, and then also my favorite food is potatoes so I got some tater tots. Fun, it’s just fun. It’s a fun approach.
Whitsons Culinary Group, a food service provider for school districts throughout the northeast United States, has utilized the Meatless Monday campaign in the schools it serves since early 2018.

Whitsons Culinary Group partners with both The Monday Campaigns and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) to implement its own Meatless Monday initiative. Though the group has been providing plant-based meal options in schools for several years, Whitsons Culinary Group’s partnership with The Monday Campaigns has brought marketing materials, technical assistance, and programming support to schools like Commack High School in Long Island, New York. Through their partnership with the Johns Hopkins CLF, Whitsons is able to collect and analyze data for evaluating and expanding the campaign.

school lunch staff serves food to studentsWhitsons school lunch staff serves food to students.

Leslie Boritz, the principal of Commack High School, calls Meatless Monday “a wonderful thing.” Boritz stresses that having input and feedback from students is very important to everything that happens in school, and all stakeholders—parents, students, teachers, and staff—should be represented in conversations about in-school nutrition. The initiative began in Commack High School after hearing feedback from the school’s Nutrition Committee, and the school has been very supportive of Meatless Monday so far. Robert Larkin, Corporate Executive Chef of Whitsons Culinary Group, finds it important to introduce new food items to students and broaden their views on the food offered to them. Commack High School purchased menu TVs in their cafeterias to show the daily menu and a fun fact next to the menu items, as a “hook” to introduce students to options they may not have otherwise explored.


As you watch, consider the following, post your response below, and reply to comments of other learners:

How has Whitsons applied some of the earlier presented themes of conducting a needs assessment and building partnerships?

What factors do you think have most significantly contributed to the success of Whitsons Meatless Monday program?

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