“I’m writing to you about something that has shocked and offended me. And trust me when I say it takes a lot to shock and offend me.” So begins a letter to Congressman George Miller, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, from comedian Sarah Silverman, one of a slew of celebrities who have signed on to support the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010.
The bill, introduced in March by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), “would reward school districts with additional food aid if they offer most students plant-based vegetarian food choices every day.” Pretty revolutionary, considering that many schools still offer sloppy joes and meatloaf as a lunchtime treat. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “there are 66 congressional co-sponsors who support this bill.”
The sweeping changes recommended in the bill would start with a pilot program providing select schools with “high-fiber, low-fat vegetarian protein products and nondairy milk options.” This bill comes at an important time, because congress will soon take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. According to the government’s School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study, “more than 70 percent of schools serve meals too high in saturated fat to comply with federal dietary guidelines.”
But is America, land of the free and home of McDonald’s, ready for a meatless (or less meat-filled) lunch? The PCRM thinks so. “Schools want to serve healthy meals, but they need help from Congress,” says PCRM nutritionist Kathryn Strong, R.D. “The Healthy School Meals Act would give school cafeterias the power to offer more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat plant-based options.” The PCRM notes that “a veggie burger, for example, has the same amount of protein as a hamburger. But while the hamburger has 15 grams of fat, the veggie burger has only 5, and it contains no saturated fat, no cholesterol, fewer calories, and more fiber.”
It’s clear that cafeteria reform, if perhaps not as vegetarian as Polis hopes, is on its way, and that’s good news for our nation’s kids.
Photo: 92Y Tribeca via Flickr