Take a pledge of community-driven vegetarianism, meat-eating education with No Meat March

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No, it’s not a physical march.

No Meat March, on the surface, is a 31-day pledge against meat-eating and for vegetarianism. However, for Keith Marks, a UNF English Language Program instructor and the main brain behind the events surrounding the pledge, No Meat March means one other thing.

“I want to bring the community together,” he said. “That’s my intention.”

Marks, a vegetarian, set one month as an appropriate length to experiment with vegetarianism after talking to his wife, Tehila, about giving up things a couple of years ago when they were living in Israel, he said. He gave up meat-eating for 30 days and said his body felt better afterward.

The first Veg Fest that the Girls Gone Green, an environmental advocacy nonprofit organization, held in the fall inspired Marks to start No Meat March.

He said the Veg Fest felt like a music festival, such as Suwannee, because of all the people who came out in support.

Julies Watkins, a vegan and the founder of the Girls Gone Green and a meteorologist at Action News Jax, said she started the nonprofit in 2007 as a way to bring awareness to the environment, animal welfare and health and wellness.

As a part of No Meat March, the Girls Gone Green will launch and have a screening of its series “The EcoManiacs” March 24 to bring about its concerns, she said.

Watkins, too, said the biggest goal for No Meat March is to bring together the community.

Jacksonville’s vegetarian community realized there are more vegetarians out there than they imagined after attending Veg Fest, Watkins said.

No Meat March will offer education about the effects of meat-eating. The month will start off with a question and answer panel at Ananda Kula, a studio Marks, his wife and another couple own. Ananda Kula is a place for yoga, acupuncture and messages in Avondale.

The month will host cooking classes, pot lucks and even a couple of day trips. Marks said every day participants will receive e-mails that will include vegetarian recipes, video testimonials, facts, quotes and general information.

There will be a field trip to CJ Animal Acres Rescue Farm March 13 that will really connect people to their food, Watkins said.

Marks said he wanted to assure No Meat March participants that they do not have to fear meat-eating but rather educate themselves about it.

“My goal is not to make more vegetarians,” he said. “My goal is to make more conscious meat-eaters.”

A big selling point for the month is the restaurant discounts and raffle prizes participants will be able to enjoy. The biggest raffle prize is an electric bicycle worth $1,700 that A1A Eco-Transport donated, Watkins said. It goes 80 miles on a charge, and she said while regular bicycles are already eco-friendly, the electric bike is a better option than a motorcycle.

In a roundabout way, the electric bike also promotes cycling, which could build a larger cycling community in Jacksonville, she said.

Marks said this month is an easy way for anyone who has ever contemplated vegetarianism to try it. He even convinced a couple of his students to take the No Meat March pledge.

Mohammed Akbar, a UNF ELP student from Kuwait, estimates he eats meat four times a week.

“I’ve never tried to stop eating meat in my life,” Akbar said, “so, it’s going to be interesting.”

Khalid Al-Somali, a UNF ELP student from Saudi Arabia, said he already doesn’t eat too much red meat, but instead he eats white meat.

But his lack of excessive meat-eating won’t stop him from avoiding all meat for the month.

“I just want to try something new, you know?” Al-Somali said.

If you think No Meat March sounds like the right thing for you and want to check out more information about the different events, visit nomeatmarch.com to take the pledge.

No Meat March Breakdown:
Community: Keith Marks and Julie Watkins, two head organizers for No Meat March, said community is the greatest force behind the month-long meat-forfeit. By attending events, participants will be able to meet others giving up meat in order to promote an alternative lifestyle and environmental awareness.

Events: From day trips and panel discussions to cooking class and film screenings, No Meat March promises a variety of events to keep pledges motivated throughout the month. Marks said he’s most excited about an after party with Gloria Steinem, a feminist activist and writer. His nonprofit charitable event-planning organization, Party, Benefit and Jam Productions, will host the evening. Meet Steinem at Walker’s Wine Bar after she and Dorothy Pitman Hughes speak at UNF March 10.

Education: A visit to CJ Animal Acres Rescue Farm will connect pledges to the food, Watkins said. Because the month wants to focus on the effects meat-eating has on the environment, Marks and Watkins said education trips such as this will hopefully have meat-eaters understand all the ways in which meat-eating harms the environment. Marks said the deforestation caused when farmers need to make more farm land is one of the harms this market causes.

Health: Watkins said participants will be able to learn about good food and good products that aren’t of the meat variety. Marks said with a handful of different types of greens and plants, vegetarians can whip up several meals. He said once going vegetarian, a salad no longer consists of the standard lettuce, cheese and dressing. And if the health reasons weren’t obvious before, The logline for the month is “Give Your Bowels a Break.”