WASHINGTON—Vending machines and a lack of exercise take the blame for skyrocketing childhood obesity rates. But one doctor is taking to the airwaves to say they are not the issue and to insist that Americans confront the real problem. In a new commercial airing in Washington, D.C., Huntington, W.Va., and other locations, nutrition researcher Neal D. Barnard, M.D., says hamburgers, cheese pizzas, and other high-fat school meals are the key causes of high cholesterol levels and rising rates of overweight among young students. Dr. Barnard says schools need help, and asks viewers to support a new bill in Congress, the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010, H.R. 4870.
“One in three kids is now overweight. One in five already has a cholesterol problem,” says Dr. Barnard in the new commercial. “Think the cause is lack of exercise? Think again. To burn off the calories in a burger, a child would have to run three miles.”
The commercial will air on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in each location.
Long after Jamie Oliver has left West Virginia, the Healthy School Meals Act will help food service directors across the country with additional food aid if they offer most students healthy plant-based vegetarian options every day. Introduced by Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, the bill has already drawn support from 50 members of Congress. It would create a pilot program to provide select schools with high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian foods and nondairy milk options.
If a student is able to choose a plant-based vegetarian meal option even once a week, he or she could reap important benefits. A veggie burger, for example, is similar in protein content to a hamburger. But while the hamburger has 15 grams of fat, the veggie burger has only 5, and it contains no saturated fat, zero cholesterol, fewer calories, and more fiber.
Vegetarian school lunch options are supported by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and celebrity parents such as Tobey Maguire and basketball star John Salley.
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.