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Texas Ag Commish Upset Over School's Meat-Free Monday Program

AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - An Austin area school district has launched a "Meatless Monday" pilot program, and the Texas Agriculture Commissioner isn't happy about it.

The program at the Drippings Springs School District offers meat-free lunch options on Mondays to students in its three elementary schools.

Among the food items offered to students this Monday were a black-bean burrito, vegetarian chili with cornbread, baby carrots and sliced peaches. On past Mondays, students could choose cheese sandwiches, cheese ravioli, spinach salad and vegetarian soups.

Students can still eat meaty meals on Mondays, but must bring their lunches from home.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is raising objectionsto the program.

Staples said in an opinion piece published in the Austin American-Statesman that "meatless Mondays" are part of an "activist movement" advocating a vegetarian diet for Americans. He is in charge of the agency that administers school lunch programs in the state.

"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.

Texas Department of Agriculture Spokesman Bryan Black says that's just not right.

Texas Ag Dept. Upset Over Meatless Monday Program

John Crowley heads childhood nutrition services for the Hays County district. He said the program is intended to encourage healthy and environmentally conscientious eating. Some benefits of growing vegetables over raising livestock include fewer greenhouse gases.

He said there is no plan to expand the veggie menu to other weekdays.

"Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not," Crowley said. "We're trying to think outside the box, and we serve a lot of Texas beef on our menus. We've had requests for more vegetarian options, and I thought, `Why don't I give it a try and see how it's received by kids?"'

The Houston school district also has meat-free Mondays at some of its schools.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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