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While I’d like to think my little column every Friday contributes to more eaters choosing meatless meals, it’ll probably be Sodexo that will really change America’s diet.

This week, one of the world’s largest food service providers announced it will join in the Meatless Monday campaign. In numbers, this means that vegetables will be featured in 900 hospital accounts, 2,000 corporate clients, 175 government sites, 650 college campuses, nearly 500 school districts and 150 private schools, Meatless Monday program director Chris Elam wrote at Huffington Post this week.

As a meat eater, I understand how easy it is to add chicken to salad and bacon to grilled cheese. And too often, restaurants do not offer one single vegetarian item. (A quick finger wag at Ba Bay: such a modern establishment should know better. Somethings can be changed to vegetarian-friendly, but that’s not the same.) What I like about Sodexo’s approach is the option. It will simply make a plant-based entree available. There’s no forcing. Because shaming and torturing customers into a meatless meal will not work. But putting it out there is a promising first step.

And if Sodexo’s campaign won’t reach everyone, The New York Times might. Mark Bittman, the “vegan-till-6” Times food writer retired “The Minimalist,” his straightforward recipe (and rant) column after 13 years. His work will now appear in the paper’s opinion pages. This move certifies what many have been writing about, that food has moved from simple sustenance, to snobbery, and now to a political movement. Food not only keeps us alive, but has become a personal mission statement.

Bittman increasingly encourages more meatless meals as well as food choices that promote the health of our planet. With the the Times elevating those principles to the opinion pages, it can only further advance the need for more discussion and action on a new food approach.

I like the way 2011 is honoring the vegetable. I’m hopeful for more to come in this new year.

Photo of China Rose Radishes at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market by Stefanie Gans.