Doctors Urge City School Board to Reform Dairy-Heavy Lunch Lines
WASHINGTON—Two huge billboards warn Albany residents that eating cheese poses a health risk and contributes to the area’s high obesity rates. The billboards are sponsored by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
One billboard, located at Route 378, half a mile west of the I-787 expressway, shows a man’s obese belly beside the words, “Your abs on cheese.” The other, at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 20, features an overweight woman and the words, “Your thighs on cheese.” New York State is one of the nation’s largest producers of dairy products, and Albany County is home to several dairy farms.
PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., has written a letter to members of the Albany city school board, asking the city to cut down on dairy products served in schools to help students reduce the risk of childhood obesity.
“Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat,” Dr. Barnard says. “And the type of fat they hold is mainly saturated fat—the kind that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Cheese is also loaded with cholesterol and sodium. Americans eat more than 33 pounds of cheese per person per year—three times more than they did in 1970—and our country is more obese than ever.”
More than 59 percent of New York State’s residents are either overweight or obese. The figures are even higher in Albany County, where nearly 63 percent of adult residents are overweight or obese. The New York State Department of Health has said that the state faces a childhood obesity crisis, as one in four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese, and the obesity rate for children between 6 and 11 years of age has quadrupled over 30 years.
School lunches in Albany include an abundance of cheesy foods. The city’s high school menu, for example, includes dairy- and fat-loaded offerings such as chicken parmesan and lasagna with three different types of cheese. Cheese pizzas are available daily.
Cheese is the number-one source of saturated (“bad”) fat in the American diet.
For a copy of the billboards and Dr. Barnard’s letter to the Albany school board, or to speak with Dr. Barnard, please contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.