|NEWS RELEASE||March 8, 2006|
"Gov. Pataki: Quit Weighing Our Kids Down With Cheese," Urge Physicians in Albany Times Union Ad
New York's "Ag Literacy Day" Pizza Promotion in Elementary Schools Also Faces Legal Questions
WASHINGTON—In an advertisement running tomorrow and Sunday in the Albany Times Union, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) calls on Gov. Pataki to cancel “Ag Literacy Day,” a March 20 event that will promote high-fat dairy products like cheese pizza to elementary school students across New York state. “Gov. Pataki: Quit Weighing Our Kids Down With Cheese,” urges the ad, which features a cartoon lampooning the governor as a cheese-obsessed lunch lady. The ad points out that New York already faces an epidemic of childhood obesity.
Legal questions also surround Ag Literacy Day. The program, which is sponsored by New York Agriculture in the Classroom, features a reading of the book Extra Cheese, Please! and a lesson in how to make pizza. In a letter sent to school district superintendents across the state, PCRM associate general counsel Dan Kinburn notes that schools offering a public forum to the dairy industry or any other advocacy group are constitutionally required to permit the expression of opposing viewpoints.
The pizza promotion comes at a time of growing concern about childhood obesity. About 28 percent of New York adolescents are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, according to the New York Department of Health.
“The last thing kids need is their own school telling them to eat more pizza and other high-fat dairy foods,” said Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., a PCRM nutritionist. “Mozzarella cheese is 70 percent fat, and it’s also loaded with calories and cholesterol.”
The ad also promotes NoCheesePlease.org, a new mini-website that explains the Ag Literacy Day controversy and details the reasons why cheese is not a healthful food for children.
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.