No More Pork Purchases for the NSLP Letter
September 19, 2002
The Honorable Ann Veneman, Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
12th St. and Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Veneman:
I am writing on behalf of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit health advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., in response to the announcement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase up to $30 million of pork products for use in school lunches and nutrition programs. Given the unprecedented increase in childhood obesity and the overall deterioration of children’s health, we are shocked that the USDA would encourage the use of high-fat and cholesterol-laden pork products in child nutrition programs.
The first child nutrition program, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), was established in 1946 to safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children. At that time, Americans were concerned with malnutrition caused by a shortage of food. Today, we are concerned with over-consumption, especially over-consumption of high-fat animal products, which are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. The Surgeon General recently reported that the prevalence of obesity has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past two decades. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on obesity in America found that 60 percent of overweight five- to ten-year-olds already have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as raised blood pressure or insulin levels.
The food currently provided through the NSLP has not kept pace with what we know today to be truly healthy and nutritious food. Rather, the foods provided in the program under the guise of good nutrition—chili cheese dogs, pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers, and pork chops—are there to prop up farm incomes and are part of the problem that has created a generation of overweight children.
To reverse these trends, the USDA must act now to support the inclusion of healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and plant-based entrées in child nutrition programs, and it must discourage children from consuming the foods that are feeding the obesity epidemic. By encouraging children to follow healthy, vegetarian eating habits right from the start, the USDA will foster a nutritious eating style that will help schoolchildren maintain good health throughout their lives.
In conclusion, we ask that you (1) cancel the impending pork purchase, and (2) refrain from using child nutrition programs as a means for boosting farm incomes. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Jennifer L. Keller, R.D.