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Kiwi cafés sizzle with success on meat-free mondays, cooking up environmental change

In a recent study published within the journal Nutrients, researchers conducted interviews and online surveys with hospital café employees to research support and implementation variables towards the Meat-Free Mondays (MFMs) movement. Greater than half of the 194 participants within the survey were actively contributing to the movement, and nearly 60% supported the movement. Study findings revealed proof of the advantages of MFMs, and greater inclusion and consultation with café employees were probably the most influential variables in making the movement successful.



Study: Meat-Free Mondays in Hospital Cafés in Aotearoa, Latest Zealand. Image Credit: Created with the help of DALL·E 3

The qualms of a non-vegetarian food plan

Unprecedented anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions find the Earth on the tipping point of sustainable environmental health. The resultant climate change already presents severe threats to public safety, affecting weather (increased sporadic floods and droughts), diseases (increased pathogen load), and food availability (reduced soil fertility and an overreliance on chemical growth enhancers and genetically modified crops).

Surprisingly, the food system is an important driver of climate change – the agricultural industry represented some of the significant contributors to climate change, with methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock rearing (14.5%) being the only largest greenhouse gas source globally. Meat production requires greater land, water, and feed availability than crop production. Alarmingly, a growing body of research identifies livestock rearing together with excessive antibiotic use as central to the recent risk of diseases, each infectious and noncommunicable, worldwide.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the first reason behind global mortality, answerable for an estimated 89% of all human deaths. NCDs are related to a fancy interplay between genetics, socioeconomics, and individual health behaviors. These health behaviors are modifiable, with food plan on the forefront of interventions to combat NCDs and improve public health. The Latest Zealand (NZ) Adult Nutrition Survey (2008/09) has identified critical deficits in the common NZ citizen’s dietary composition, with only 32.8% of NZ adults meeting prescribed food and vegetable requirements and just about all NZ adults failing to satisfy beneficial fiber intakes.

Alarmingly, NZ has been identified because the 6th largest meat-consuming nation on the planet (per capita) per the findings of the Organisation for Economic and Development (OECD). Research has associated prolonged pork consumption with increasing NCD risk, including type 2 diabetes (T2D), cancers, coronary artery disease, heart problems (CVD), and total mortality.

“In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission beneficial a largely plant-based food plan, advising that profound changes should be made to the worldwide food system to feed the world’s population of 10 billion inside planetary boundaries by 2050.”

A possible answer to the growing concerns of meat overconsumption is the Meatless Mondays (MMs) campaign. Initiated within the US, the MMs campaign encourages individuals to forgo meat on all Mondays and likewise attempts to substitute 15% of current meat consumption with equivalent vegetarian intake. It has gained global popularity, with quite a few cafés, hospitals, restaurants, and even schools partaking in and promoting the advantages of the movement. Nevertheless, insufficient work has documented the impacts of MM compliance on public and environmental health.

In regards to the study

The current study investigates the enablers and barriers to implementing the Meat-Free Mondays (MFMs) policy, a policy characterised by the free or subsidized provisions of vegetarian diets across District Health Boards (DHBs) across NZ. The study was conducted to discover and supply recommendations to facilitate future policy implementations.

Three of the 20 DHBs in NZ were chosen based on their different stages of contemplation/implementation of MFMs. DHB1 (Nelson Marlborough DBH) had been implementing the policy for over two years at study initiation, DHB2 (Northland DBH) was within the strategy of trialing the policy, and DHB3 (Auckland DHB) was not implementing the policy.

This study comprised a 12-question online staff survey, semi-structured interviews of crucial job representatives, and an open-ended survey open to each DHB staff and the NZ public. The surveys and interviews were formulated based on inputs from a seven-member team comprising three nutrition experts, a DHB manager, and three lay people. The surveys moreover collected participant demographics, eating habits, and general attitudes toward MFMs.

The χ2 (Chi-squared) test was used for statistical analyses. More extensive studies couldn’t be conducted on account of insufficient sample sizes.

Study findings

The web survey sample cohort comprised 194 respondents from DHB1 (54.1%) and DHB3 (45.9%). Most participants were female (76.3%) and belonged to the Pākehā (72.7%) ethnicity. Allied health or other health professionals (28.9%) comprised the vast majority of respondents. Greater than 60% of respondents were meat eaters (63.4%), with flexitarian (18.6%), pescatarian (7.2%), vegetarian (6.7%), and vegan (4.1%) representing the dietary minorities.

Encouragingly, greater than 50% of meat-eating respondents reported taking energetic measures to substitute meat-based foods with vegetarian alternatives.

“Roughly one and a half times as many respondents were vegan at DHB3 (12.4%) compared with DHB1 (8.9%). There have been roughly twice as many flexitarians at DHB1 (25.8%) than at DHB3 (12.4%).”

Health, environmental concerns, and an affinity for plant-based dishes were identified as the numerous enablers of MFMs policy implementation. Concerns towards animal welfare and economic savings represented minor, yet significant, enablers towards reduced meat consumption. In contrast, knowledge (30.1%), taste (26.3%), and familiarity (16%) were identified as the first barriers against policy subscription.

Awareness was found to be high across DHBs, with 65.5% of all respondents aware of the movement. Nevertheless, inter-DBH understanding was found to differ greatly – DHB1 depicted 79.8% awareness versus DHB3, which described only 53.3%. Surprisingly, awareness in MZ hospitals was observed to be lower than that of the final populace. Statistical analyses of support revealed that 58.8% of all participants supported the movement and were taking an energetic role in its implementation.

Interview results identified (in contrast to previous surveys) that environmental concerns and never health advantages were probably the most critical enablers of the movement amongst café managers.

“A proportion of respondents didn’t feel that reducing meat would positively impact the environment. Some felt other sustainable actions would have more advantages, comparable to packaging, recycling, reducing food transportation and regenerative agriculture. This sentiment was echoed within the interviews and is aligned with other research on this area.

Conclusions

The current study investigates the enablers and barriers to implementing the MFMs campaign across three NZ DHBs at different stages of their policy implementation. It identifies misconceptions and lack of sufficient knowledge as significant barriers to the continued success of the policy. It recommends outreach to key movement players, including café managers, café staff, and medical personnel, as one of the best possible intervention for the policy’s rapid and successful future deployment.

Journal reference:

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