U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley), who represents California's 29th Congressional District, and his staff are on a meat-less mission.

This past week, Cárdenas sent a "Dear Colleague" message to his fellow Representatives, urging them to join the global "Meatless Monday" movement, which he and his staff spearheaded last year.

"Raising livestock for food causes the destruction of open space in favor of factory farms, the release of millions of tons of greenhouse gases, and the consumption of valuable drinking water," Cárdenas wrote in the letter. "By going meat-free even one day a week, we can help conservation efforts and take one more action to help mitigate the threat of global climate change."

"In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases-more than the transportation sector," reiterated Ian Knauer, a TakePart contributor who has worked for Gourmet and is the author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook "The Farm." 

Like all of Southern California, Cárdenas' San Fernando Valley district has also felt the effects of the current drought -- all the more reason to go meatless, he points out.

"Some of the nation's largest school districts, workplaces and public figures are signing up to start the week off by taking a day off from eating meat," Cárdenas added. "Going meat-free means enjoying delicious vegetarian options at restaurants and trying out new recipes at home."

"Meatless Mondays" not only helps improve the overall health, but it especially helps the Latino community, which often faces health risks that could be avoidable.

"Latinos face higher risks from heart disease, due to more cases of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity in our communities," Cárdenas told Latin Post. "Red meat also leads to an increased risk of heart disease and so cutting back on red meat is a great idea for Latino Americans concerned about their overall health. For all Americans, Latino or not, protecting our Earth helps protect the health of each of us. I think that is something important to consider on 'Meatless Monday.'"

Since sending out the letter, Cárdenas has received an outpouring of support from local farms, environmentalists, restaurants and the community, etc.

"I have received unbelievable support from almost every community I am in contact with," Cárdenas reiterated. "Folks in the Valley want to know more about how they can eat healthy and how to cut down on meat to make their diet better and help the environment. Most of all, they want to learn more about the great recipes we've been posting on Facebook and Twitter. I am glad I can help make a difference, even in this small way."

Cárdenas has been enjoying meatless dishes long before "Meatless Mondays" for a personal reason as well.

"I have not eaten red meat since the death of my father, because I saw the impact red meat had on his overall health and well-being," he explained. "On 'Meatless Monday,' I try to take the next step and enjoy new salads, meat alternatives in sandwiches and burgers, as well as some amazing Latino cuisine."

Has there been a shift in increasing vegetarian options at restaurants and the home in the San Fernando Valley area and beyond due to this effort? 

"'Meatless Monday' is just one tool to let people understand how important their food choices are," Cárdenas said. "There are more healthy, vegetarian options at many restaurants, not just because of 'Meatless Monday,' but because Americans see the impact diet has on their world and their waistline. They are making a conscious effort to eat healthier food that is better for our planet and our people."

The concept of "Meatless Mondays" is not  new, it has a long history behind it, Cárdenas pointed out. "During the first half of the 20th Century, particularly throughout the years of World War I and II, millions of American families pledged to observe 'Meatless Mondays' in an effort to support our troops and allies fighting abroad."