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Texas Agriculture Commissioner Criticizes 'Meatless Monday' School Meals

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A Texas school district's initiative to offer students vegetarian meals on "Meatless Mondays" has drawn criticism from Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

The state official wrote a guest commentary in the Austin-American Statesman on Sunday, calling the effort an "activist movement" bent on forcing meat-loving students to change their eating habits.

"While we have plenty of room in the Lone Star State for vegetarians, we have no room for activists who seek to mandate their lifestyles on others," he wrote. 

Staples, who administers the agency in charge of the state's school-meal programs, has received $116,000 in campaign contributions from beef producers and ranchers since 2010, the Statesman reported.

He focused his editorial on a pilot program at the Dripping Springs school district, which is "meant to encourage healthy, environmentally conscientious eating," district officials told the paper. On Meatless Mondays, the district's lunches are vegetarian, adding protein with ingredients like black beans.

Vegetarian meal options are becoming more popular nationally, with many districts adding Meatless Mondays to their rotation or offering meat-free alternatives to their entree lines. Among school food directors who completed a recent national survey by the School Nutrition Association, 56.2 percent said they consistently offer vegetarian meals in at least one school in their district.

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