Athletes, Celebrities Ask Congress for Healthier School Meals
The campaign to give students healthier choices in the lunch line is in full swing. PCRM experts, along with scores of celebrities, professional athletes, health care professionals, and students, are calling on Members of Congress to support H.R. 4870, the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010.
Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced the Healthy School Meals Act in March. The bill aims to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity by helping school food service programs offer more fruits, vegetables, and healthful plant-based meal options and nondairy beverages. The bill already has more than 60 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and is the second most supported school nutrition bill in Congress.
Three gold-medal-winning Olympians—swimmer Amanda Beard, soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo, and gymnast Nastia Liukin—wrote to lawmakers in early April urging them to support this bill. They explained that healthful food is extremely important to children’s health and development—whether they hope to be professional athletes or not.
The momentum continued on April 21 when nearly 1,000 concerned physicians, parents, students, and citizens signed up to call their representatives on National School Lunch Call-In Day. The evening before the call-in day, Elizabeth Kucinich, PCRM’s director of public affairs, actress Deidre Hall, and local student activist Nina Gonzalez—who helped her school system add vegetarian options—hosted a conference call to answer questions about the Healthy School Meals Act.
More recently, NBA star John Salley and Olympic gold-medal-winning sprinter Allyson Felix showed their support for the bill in the halls of Congress. At a May 5 congressional breakfast co-hosted by PCRM, in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Families for Children’s Health, Salley and Felix participated in a roundtable discussion about improving the nutritional quality of foods served in our nation’s lunchrooms.
Salley and Felix were joined by PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., Kucinich, and nutrition advocate Wyntergrace Williams—daughter of talk show host Montel Williams. Members of Congress joining the conversation included representatives Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Donna M. Christensen, D-Virgin Islands, Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Polis. The breakfast featured an array of gourmet plant-based dishes catered by celebrity chef Lauren Von Der Pool.
The Healthy School Meals Act would help schools offer students healthy, plant-based meals, which are generally lower in fat and saturated fat and higher in fiber than traditional school meals. With the percentage of overweight and obese children now at or above 30 percent in 30 states, these healthier meals could make a major impact on children’s health.
Hollywood Supports Healthy School Meals Act
Letters in support of the Healthy School Meals Act are stacking up on Rep. George Miller’s desk. But a few letters may be tacked up on his bulletin board.
Rep. Miller, D-Calif., chair of the committee that child nutrition legislation is passing through, has received letters from Scarlett Johansson, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Nicole Richie, and many other celebrities in support of healthy school meal choices.
Media outlets across the country have covered the bill’s celebrity support. An article in the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call began, “Celebrities get a lot of mail—but Rep. George Miller might just get the most mail from celebrities.”
In their letters, they ask Miller to help fight childhood obesity and related chronic diseases by including language from the Healthy School Meals Act in updated child nutrition legislation.