It's a little hard to believe. Just two years ago there was a single blogger talking about the merits of Meatless Monday, the incomparable Kim O'Donnel. And this month, Sodexo, the world's premier food services provider -- serving 10 million customers daily -- rolls out Meatless Monday across the nation.
For the Meatless Monday movement, this is a big deal. Sodexo will now add and promote plant-based entrees at its 900+ hospital accounts. Its nearly 2000 corporate clients and 175 government sites will follow. And then in the fall, Sodexo's 650 college campuses, nearly 500 school districts and 150 private schools will implement Meatless Monday.
"This fits in so well with our Better Tomorrow Plan, which is all about promoting health and wellness, protecting and restoring the environment, and supporting local community development," says Nitu Gupta, vice president of brand management for Sodexo health care. "Meatless Monday is a simple thing we can all do in the face of multiple challenges. Little changes in our behavior can have a profound effect."
It's this idea of gradual change for personal health that's being picked up by another national institution, Walmart. Our largest grocer recently announced it will cut sodium by a quarter, reduce sugar from some of its private label products, and decrease the price of its fruits and vegetables.
"It's easy for health advocates to call for change," says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of Meatless Monday, "but it's a lot more meaningful when the Sodexo's and Walmart's of the world do so -- when there's real business on the line."
Sodexo intends to keep its Meatless Monday program fresh by sending out new tool kits to its client reps every 4 months. These will include newly created recipes, promo materials and educational background. It also hopes to launch other fitness and health programs created by The Monday Campaigns.
Whether it's about encouraging health and wellness, or simply selling products according to USA Today's top marketing trends for 2011, Meatless Monday is on the cusp of an extraordinary year of growth. It's thanks to institutions both big and small that people around the country are adopting this simple message of moderation and choice for their health and the health of the planet.
Follow Chris Elam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MeatlessMonday