It seems as if no month is just a month anymore. Nor is any day “just another Monday,” or Wednesday, or boring Saturday. Okay, every day is special – sometimes with more than one designation. It’s hard to keep track of it all. But, for those who do: October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. Oct. 1 is World Vegetarian Day, and because it’s the first day of the work week, it’s a “Meatless Monday,” which ties in nicely.
In researching the origins of some of these days, it’s interesting to note the histories of some of the specially-designated days and months in this country. Some are just whims, of course, like last month’s “National Talk like a Pirate Day,” on Sept. 19. October, however, has a long international history of food awareness dates. It has been known variously as Reverence for Life Month, Month of Vegetarian Food, and other names. Nov. 1, not coincidentally, was designated in 1994 as World Vegan Day.
Oct. 2 is World Farm Animals Day, followed by The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi Oct. 4. The first full week of the month is known as World Week of Prayer for Animals. Numerous churches hold Blessing of the Animals services this week.
Another date of some importance in this modern world, with current concern over the dual problems of obesity and food-related health issues in this country, and the worldwide issues of hunger, food security and food production, is Oct. 16, United Nations World Food Day, which commemorates the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945.
Finally, Oct. 24, 2012, has been designated as Food Day, “a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, sustainable food.”
There are also numerous efforts, such as the “PB&J campaign,” which encourage consuming more plant-based meals, for both health and environmental reasons.
Sometimes, identifying, producing and procuring “healthy food” seems like a full-time undertaking. Governmental policy to define, monitor and regulate food supply and food consumption is also increasingly restrictive and confusing. With what appears to be escalating regularity, Americans are being instructed to alter their eating habits, either through regulation or pricing, taxation or new scientific studies. Food safety is another concern, with more product recalls this year than in the past, and with news reports of higher levels of such trace minerals as arsenic in rice.
Issues of family food insecurity, children at risk because of hunger, the increasing number of families applying for government assistance in the form of food stamps, the overwhelming need for food banks and feeding programs for the needy, and the amount of food waste in this country and worldwide are associated issues.
This writer will focus on some of these topics throughout the coming month. Subscribe now to receive notices of the full series.
In 1977, the North American Vegetarian Society established the first day of October as “a day of celebration,” to bring awareness to the ethical, environmental, health and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle; it was endorsed in 1978 by the International Vegetarian Union “to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.”
Whether you are a vegetarian or not, however, it has been indisputably demonstrated that eating habits and lifestyle are directly related to human health and well-being. One component of healthy eating, nutritionists all agree, is consuming more “plants.” The international Meatless Monday campaign encourages just that; that people cut out meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet.
A 15 percent reduction in meat consumption, or giving up meat the equivalent of one day a week, lessens risks of chronic, preventable illness, as well as contributing to a strong, positive environmental impact. An initiative of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Meatless Monday offers weekly meat-free recipes, articles, tips and news, all conforming to USDA nutrition guidelines.
So, in recognition of World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Awareness Month, and in honor of Meatless Monday, here is a recipe for a Tomato Gravy, which sounds “good enough to eat.” If you try it, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, gravy is comfort food, right?
Oh, and just one final note: October 4 has been designated “Hug a Non-Meat Eater Day.”