Introducing the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010
Millions of children could soon have access to nutritious vegetarian school lunches if Congress passes a bill introduced this March.
The Healthy School Meals Act of 2010, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., would create a pilot program to provide select schools with plant-based vegetarian options and healthful nondairy beverages. The bill would also reward school districts with additional food aid if they offer most students nondairy vegetarian food choices every day.
For years, PCRM doctors and dietitians have encouraged lawmakers to make changes to child nutrition legislation to support healthful vegetarian foods. Now PCRM is playing a major role in supporting this measure, which would put vegetarian meal options and nondairy beverage choices into school cafeterias. The bill has been introduced as Congress considers the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which lays the groundwork for school meals and other food assistance programs.
“One in three children is now overweight,” says PCRM dietitian Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “One in five teens has an abnormal cholesterol level. If children never have an option other than the usual meat-and-dairy-based meals, those figures are not likely to change.”
One federal study showed that 70 percent of schools serve meals that exceed recommended levels of saturated fat. PCRM nutrition experts are meeting with Members of Congress and other school nutrition stakeholders to explain how the Healthy School Meals Act could fight childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health.
If the law passes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would follow the pilot program by making plant-based vegetarian options and nondairy beverage choices available to schools through the commodity program. It would also provide training materials on the nutritional benefits of these foods. Students would no longer have to provide a doctor’s note to choose a milk alternative.
Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.
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