the story behind Meatless Monday (the day all health breaks loose).

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 9.53.24 AMI am excited to share this Q & A this week with Diana Rice, Registered Dietician and PR Associate for the Monday Campaigns: the fabulous initiative encouraging us all to commit to pay a little more attention to our food, our health and our habits each week. As you probably know, I am a huge advocate for preventive medicine: the Monday Campaigns are at the forefront of this movement -- I have so much respect for the way they're working to make wellness accessible. In this post, Diana discusses how the program got started, its tremendous value and the impact it's having right now. If you're looking to work your own Meatless Monday (or Kids Cook Monday) into each week, you're already in a great spot: check out the recipes tab above for getting-started inspiration. 

What is the purpose of the Monday Campaigns? How long have they been around? 

The Monday Campaigns began as a partnership between former advertising executive Sid Lerner and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who worked together to revive Meatless Monday, a former war conservation effort. Based on the success of that campaign and research that demonstrates that people are most interested in making healthy changes on the first day of the week, The Monday Campaigns was founding in partnership with Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and Columbia universities and has expanded to include a group of additional campaigns, such as Move It Monday and The Kids Cook Monday.

Tell me a bit about your role with the Monday Campaigns: what do you do on a daily basis to promote and grow the program?

As the staff dietitian, I lend nutritional expertise to our food-focused initiatives, Meatless Monday and The Kids Cook Monday. I source the recipes we feature weekly and consult on the free resources we develop for the campaigns. I work to develop partnerships development for these campaigns, finding organizations and bloggers with similar ideals who can help spread our message of introducing small, sustainable health changes at the beginning of the week.

What motivates you, personally, to do this work? How did you end up in the position you’re in?

I think that like a lot of people of my generation, I want the work I’m doing each day to not only pay the bills, but contribute to the greater goal of bettering our society. I was very drawn to helping to address the obesity crisis we’re facing, which is how I found myself pursuing the RD credential. I also have a background in writing and social media, so my skills were very well aligned with what this position requires.

What was the first thing you did when you got involved with the campaigns?

I immediately began working to expand our Kids Cook Monday campaign. The goal of the campaign – to help children develop cooking skills and encourage family dinners – is very much a passion of mine. Throughout my studies to become an RD, I worked part time teaching children’s cooking and nutrition lessons, so I set to work using my knowledge of the benefits and challenges of children’s nutrition education to expand our free resources and bring more partners on board to help spread our message.

How does your training as an RD influence how you do this work? How is it valuable?

Studying the pathophysiology of each of the chronic diseases we’re working to prevent certainly helps me to discuss the advantages of reduced meat consumption from a position of expertise, but another huge part of my RD training was developing critical thinking skills as they apply to food and nutrition related-behaviors. We take a unique approach to behavior change at The Monday Campaigns by encouraging people to introduce small changes on Mondays when they’re most open to them. Over time, we hope to see these small changes become second nature, so being able to take a critical eye to such problems and developing creative ways to market behavior change has been useful as well.

How have you seen the campaigns grow and change?

Meatless Monday started long before I came on board, but it’s wonderful to know that what started as a simple idea by one person has now become a global movement and is active in over 35 countries! I hope to be able to say the same about The Kids Cook Monday one day.

Do you have any unique stories about the impact the campaigns are having on groups, families or individuals?

One of our Kids Cook Monday bloggers runs the blog At Home with Momma Skyla. She joined the movement before I came on board with The Monday Campaigns, so she’s been doing The Kids Cook Monday with her family for quite a while. Although our bloggers typically post recipes they’ve cooked with their kids on Mondays, one week she posted a reflection of a particularly challenging week she’d had – one of her kids was very sick. She wrote about how, since she’d been doing The Kids Cook Monday with her family for such a long time, her other children were able to take over the cooking during that week, which was a huge relief to her. I was passionate about the campaign before hearing her story, but reading that really touched me and motivated me to expand our campaign to reach many more families.

Where do you see the project going in the next five years? What is the broader social impact of this?

Just a few weeks ago, we had a paper published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that demonstrates that people are truly more interested in health on Mondays. The authors, including my colleague Morgan Johnson, examined seven years of Google search data and found that searches including the word “healthy” markedly spiked at the beginning of the week. The Monday Campaigns considers itself a marriage of public health and advertising minds, and ultimately, our goal is to make Monday “health day” just as Friday is pay day and Saturday is play day. Via our partners and social media channels, I hope to see our messages spread to the point that it’s simply commonplace that Monday is the day people work towards adopting a healthier lifestyle.

What is your favorite part of your work with the campaigns?

It is definitely hearing stories of individuals, families, and organizations that have enacted true change because of our campaigns. Other elements of my position are fun and all, but ultimately, that’s what everyone on staff at The Monday Campaigns is working to see.

You can sign up for the weekly Kids Cook Mondays newsletter - filled with great recipes, videos and conversation starters - at KCM Facebook page. For more information on the Campaigns, check out www.mondaycampaigns.org.

Posted in expert series, health coaching info, homepage featured, meatless monday, nutrition for families and children, parenting

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