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'Town Hall' and Capitol Hill Ads Call for Healthy School Lunches

Health care was debated heatedly across the United States in August. But at PCRM’s celebrity-hosted "town hall" for healthy school lunches, the only raised voices were cheering suggestions for vegetarian lunches. And on PCRM ads in Washington, D.C., a smiling 8-year-old girl asked a polite question of the current administration: “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?”

As Congress prepares to take up the Child Nutrition Act (CNA), which regulates the National School Lunch Program, the ad campaign draws a sharp contrast between the healthy meals served at many private schools and the high-fat foods served at schools that rely on government subsidies. PCRM posted the 14 ads to greet congressional staffers traveling throughout Union Station in Washington, D.C.

“At most schools, children have no alternative at all to the meaty, cheesy, high-calorie fare that contributes to childhood obesity and health problems,” says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Congress needs to help all schools, no matter how disadvantaged, to provide vegetables, fruits, and healthy nondairy vegetarian choices.”

Media coverage of the ads that featured 8-year-old Jasmine Messiah included a front-page article in The Washington Post and pieces on CNN’s American Morning and The Situation Room.

But Jasmine is not the only student finding creative ways to ask Congress for healthy school lunches. You’ve heard of singing for your supper. But in San Francisco, students were asked to sing—and paint—for their lunches.

Marilu Henner
Marilu Henner

On Aug. 22, Marilu Henner, mother, best-selling author, and star of Taxi, hosted the School Lunch Sound Off. The open-mike event sponsored by PCRM offered students, parents, and other community members a chance to share concerns about the National School Lunch Program and ideas for improving school food. Students who attended the event were asked to bring drawings, comics, skits, and songs to share about school lunch.

A selection of the ideas will be presented to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., as a part of PCRM’s campaign to reform federal nutrition programs. Miller is chair of the House Education Committee, which has jurisdiction over the CNA.

“America’s children have never been at greater risk for obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related health problems,” says PCRM staff dietitian Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “Congress needs to hear from young people who want more vegetables, fruits, and other vegetarian foods in their school lunchrooms.” 

During the ABC Family prime-time drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager, PCRM reached millions of those young people to let them know that Congress needs to hear from them.

In a commercial that aired nationally during the Aug. 24 episode of the show—which began this season with over 4 million viewers—Wyntergrace Williams, daughter of television show host Montel, continued to call on Congress for healthy vegetarian school lunch options.

“Some of us don’t eat right,” Wyntergrace says in the commercial produced by the PCRM. “Fast food, junk food—sometimes, even our school lunches have too much fat and cholesterol.”

Both the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association have passed resolutions supporting vegetarian options on school lunch menus. However, federal child nutrition legislation still offers no provisions for plant-based meals.

To watch the commercial and sign the petition asking Congress to help schools serve students more healthy school lunches, visit

Neal Barnard, M.D.
Neal Barnard, M.D.

PCRM Online, September 2009
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