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The Physicians Committee



Actor Tobey Maguire Joins the Healthy School Lunch Revolution

Tobey MaguireAs Spider-Man, he defeated the Green Goblin and Sandman. But in his latest role, actor Tobey Maguire is taking on an even bigger threat to public health—unhealthy school lunches. On July 30, the father of two young children sent letters to congressional leaders asking that the Child Nutrition Act provide more healthy vegetarian options in school lunches.

“I am deeply concerned that unhealthy school lunches are contributing to our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic,” Maguire wrote in the letters to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “My wife and I just had our second child, so this issue is tremendously important to us.”

Maguire, star of Spider-Man, The Ice Storm, and The Cider House Rules, is asking that the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which regulates the National School Lunch Program, help schools serve more low-fat vegetarian meals.

The letters—covered by People magazine and in the political periodicals Roll Call and The Hill—are part of PCRM’s campaign to provide students low-fat plant-based meals.

“School is tough enough already—students shouldn’t have to put up with lunches swimming in fat and cholesterol,” wrote Maguire. “Let me ask you to please ensure the Child Nutrition Act provides more fruits, vegetables, and healthy vegetarian foods.”

In addition to lobbying Congress and the general public, PCRM is also calling on food service workers. At a recent School Nutrition Association (SNA) conference, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., presented Plant-Based Options for School Lunch. Attendees included many of SNA’s 55,000 members who provide meals to students across the country.

Dr. Barnard, who was joined by PCRM nutritionist Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D., explained how healthful vegetarian foods and beverages improve dietary patterns and impart long-term protective health benefits. They also reviewed vegetarian nutrition for children and showed how to add healthful vegetarian options to school lunches. And there are signs that school food service workers are using information like this to incorporate more vegetarian options into school lunches.

A recent issue of SNA’s trendSets newsletter reported that vegetarian entrée choices are a common part of most trendSetter's lunch programs. (The trendSetter panel comprises approximately 200 school nutrition directors across different geographic locations and district sizes.)

Over 80 percent report offering vegetarian items, and 72 percent offer at least one vegetarian option per day. Unfortunately, dairy products are most commonly used to make up these vegetarian meal entrées. These entrées include many unhealthy, high-fat options: cheese pizza, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, cheese plates, Italian cheese sticks, egg salad sandwiches, and cheese-stuffed shells.

Only 15 percent of programs offer vegan items. And fewer than 30 percent report using soy (burgers, nuggets, or tofu).

To ask Congress to help schools add more low-fat vegetarian and vegan lunch options, sign PCRM’s petition at HealthySchoolLunches.org. You’ll also find tips for how you can ask schools for vegetarian lunches and sample menus and quantity recipes for school food service workers.



 

PCRM Online, August 2009

 
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