Responding to customer requests for more vegetarian fare, the Sebago Brewing Co. restaurants recently launched what is believed to be the state’s first Meatless Monday menu.

“We’ve gotten a lot of requests for more healthy, more local and more vegetarian,” said Elise Loschiavo, Sebago’s marketing manager. “It’s not that hard to come up with a few more meatless options.”

The special menu, which is available only on Mondays, features a vegetarian soup of the day, avocado yogurt dip with tortilla chips and vegetables ($7.99), vegetable lasagna ($9.49), pasta primavera ($8.99) and warm chickpea salad ($7.99). The last two items can be ordered on other days of the week, too, and the regular menu includes a variety of vegetarian options.

“We looked on our list of restaurants, and no one else is on it (from Maine),” said Peggy Neu, president of the Monday Campaigns, which oversees the Meatless Monday initiative.

A national campaign started in 2003 with support from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Meatless Monday aims to improve health and reduce environmental degradation by encouraging people to eat less meat. The initiative builds on the Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday promotions created during World War I and revived during World War II as part of a nationwide effort to conserve food staples for the troops.

“We’re really not trying to reach vegans or vegetarians, we’re trying to reach people who eat meat,” Neu said.

The current campaign grew out of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, which calls for a 15 percent reduction in saturated fat consumption.

“Most people get their saturated fat from eating red meat,” said Ralph Loglisci, project director of Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project. “If people stop eating meat one day a week, they would achieve the 15 percent reduction (in saturated fat).”

The campaign also builds on research that shows people are more willing to give up unhealthy habits and make better lifestyle choices at the start of the work week.

“People are open to change on Monday,” Loglisci said.

Bowdoin College stirred debate on its Brunswick campus in February, when the dining halls nixed meat for a special one-night-only Meatless Monday dinner. A group of outraged carnivores protested the move by hosting a barbecue, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and selling McDonald’s cheeseburgers as a fundraiser (one hopes with a sense of irony) for the Coastal Humane Society.

Loglisci said the trouble arose because a meatless menu was essentially forced upon the students, rather than offering them the ability to pick a vegetarian meal instead of a traditional entree.

“The best way to really promote Meatless Monday is to make sure it’s a choice,” Loglisci said. “If you’re not taking anything away, you’re just increasing options.”

Bowdoin’s Meatless Monday event was part of a semester-long program aimed at raising awareness of where food comes from.

The Bowdoin Orient student paper reported that 1,169 students ate the meatless meal, 68 fewer than ate in the dining halls the prior Monday. The dining services director told the paper the comment cards from students about the Meatless Monday dinner were “overwhelmingly positive.”

Whether the campaign resurfaces on campus when students return in the fall remains to be seen.

“Although it’s possible Bowdoin may have a meatless meal in the future in one of the dining halls, there is no current student initiative to do so,” Bowdoin spokesman Doug Boxer-Cook said in an email statement.

Meatless Monday menus have gained the most traction in larger metropolitan areas. However, The New York Times recently wrote about the campaign’s cachet in Aspen, Colo., saying it “has been embraced here more than in any other city in America.”

According to Dick Grotton, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association, the slow arrival of Meatless Monday in Maine is not unexpected.

“These things tend to come from west to east,” Grotton said.

Noting that Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the slowest days in the restaurant industry, Grotton said a Meatless Monday promotion “gives consumers another reason to go out on Monday.”

Loschiavo agreed, saying “it gives us a little extra edge on a traditionally slow night.”

This is what has happened at a number of restaurants, including the upscale Dovetail in New York City, where the owner told Neu that after adding a Meatless Monday menu, its reservations have been booked solid on Mondays.

“He’s attracting a different demographic,” Neu said. “If new people come in on Monday, maybe they’ll come back Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila

 


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