The Baltimore City Public Schools system has become the first in the United States to pledge to offer no meat on Mondays, according to the organization Meatless Monday.

The move means 80,000 students have no meat option on Mondays. The menu offerings for next Monday are limited to an entrée of ravioli or grilled cheese and side dishes of mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and fresh fruit.

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health which presented Baltimore school officials its 2009 Award for Visionary Leadership in Local Food Procurement and Food Education.

Sid Lerner, Chairman of the Monday Campaigns said, "The Meatless Monday campaign, initiated in 2003 with Robert Lawrence and Dean Alfred Sommer, has become a growing international movement of individuals, organizations and communities committed to cutting out meat one day a week for their health and the health of the planet."

Meat industry advocates, however, said Baltimore students will be missing out on nutritious proteins and should at least be offered a meat option on Mondays.

"The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have affirmed time and again that meat is an important part of a balanced diet, because it contains vital amino acids and nutrients that are essential for the growing bodies of young adults," said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, in a statement e-mailed to Meatingplace.

"Additionally, for young adults who are working to maintain a healthy body weight, meat is an important part of the diet because it's nutrition-dense and helps with a feeling of satiety. We believe that students should be free to choose whether or not they wish to consume meat, instead of simply removing it from the menu and depriving them of that choice."

Source: Meatingplace.com