Meatless Mondays

Fort Worth ISD taps veggie-loving celebrity to usher in new lunch program

Fort Worth ISD taps veggie-loving celeb to usher in new lunch program

Fresh-picked garden produce
Fort Worth schools have embraced a "Lean & Green" program for their 2015-16 back-to-school menu. Photo by Marshall Hinsley

As part of its back-to-school routine for fall 2015, Fort Worth ISD has added something fresh to the menu: a "Lean & Green" dining option at its school cafeterias, part of a program under its Child Nutrition Services department.

On Monday, October 26, that program will be officially launched with special guest Daniella Monet, an actress from the Nickelodeon television show Victorious and the ABC Family hit series Baby Daddy. Monet will appear at Meadowbrook Elementary School, 4330 Meadowbrook Dr., where she'll talk with students and tour the campus, which also boasts a student-tended garden.

Monet will talk about the benefits of a plant diet not only for health and the animals, but also for the planet. "When I found out how much just eating meat-free once a week helped the environment, I was amazed,” she says, calling while filming in Burbank, California.

For its 2015-16 school year, Fort Worth ISD began offering Meatless Mondays every other week, plus meatless options on regular days, at elementary and middle schools. At the high school level, meatless options are offered every day.

Meatless Mondays and "Lean & Green" programs have become increasingly popular around the world and in Texas, including Houston, Dallas, and McAllen. Plant-based diets are consistently linked to lower obesity rates, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

And Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has been spearheading a number of healthy initiatives, such as fitness programs and a recent "walk to school campaign."

Alicia Smith, a dietitian with the Fort Worth ISD, says that it's part of the district's goal to provide students with opportunities to excel. "This means teaching our students about the benefits of choosing healthy meals," she says. "Our Lean & Green Kick-Off will help us do just that."

Monet, who has been vegetarian since she was five, says she enjoys talking to kids about nutrition. "I've been on Nickelodeon for over 10 years so I have a following with kids," she says. "I think it's a great experience for them to have a familiar face, and I get to talk about something that's important to me.

"I came to vegetarianism pretty easily," she says. "I'm from an Italian family, food is something we enjoy. But with all of the choices available, it's a lot easier these days. You can to go your everyday chain restaurant and almost always find something with a little 'V' next to it."

She's done similar events at other schools, but calls this visit unique. "One of reasons I'm so excited to come to Fort Worth is that you don't think of vegans when you come to Texas," she says.