Improve School Lunches and Save Farmed Animals’ Lives

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comments on changes to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) by April 13, 2011.

This is a chance to support a win-win approach to providing children with nutritious, wholesome food choices while simultaneously reducing the number of animals used in the food industry. Current standards and their reliance on meat and dairy products have contributed to rising rates of childhood obesity and chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, with taxpayers footing the bill in the form of rising health care costs and huge subsidies to animal agriculture.

Submit your comment today!

The FNS recently published a proposed rule (PDF) and the stated purpose is to “increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fat in meals; and help meet the nutrition needs of school children within their calorie requirements.”

The number of children affected by the programs is immense. According to the proposed rule:

  • “The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is available to over 50 million children each school day; an average of 31.6 million children per day ate a reimbursable lunch in fiscal year (FY) 2010. The School Breakfast Program (SBP) served an average of 11.6 million children daily.
  • In FY 2010, schools served 2.9 billion free NSLP lunches, 0.5 billion reduced price lunches, and 1.8 billion full price or ‘paid’ lunches. Schools served 1.5 billion free breakfasts, 0.2 billion reduced price breakfasts, and 0.3 billion paid breakfasts.”

Children should have wholesome meal options based primarily on nutrition content, not based on the availability of cheap surplus agricultural products.

Furthermore, the NSLP and SBP should facilitate the availability of healthful milk alternatives, particularly fortified ones that provide protein, calcium, and Vitamin D without the cholesterol or saturated fats in dairy milk. Cow milk is naturally formulated to nourish baby cows, so it is not surprising that frequent consumption of dairy products by humans has negative health effects.

Many children have milk allergies or lactose intolerance, particularly in populations that are not of Northern European descent. According to a report published in 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians, “Lactase deficiency is present in up to 15 percent of persons of northern European descent, up to 80 percent of blacks and Latinos, and up to 100 percent of American Indians and Asians.” These statistics should be taken into account in the “Civil Rights Impact Analysis” section of the proposed rule in light of allowing schools to offer healthful beverage alternatives to milk as part of the reimbursable meal.

To ameliorate these problems, the USDA should make the following important modifications to the proposed rule:

  • Require healthful beverage alternatives to dairy milk — such as soy milk or rice milk — be available at every meal;
  • Require at least one vegan meal choice be available at every meal based on naturally nutrient-dense whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits.

Submit comments through one of the following methods:
Preferred method:
Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

Mail: Comments should be addressed to:
Julie Brewer, Chief
Policy and Program Development Branch, Child Nutrition Division,
Food and Nutrition Service, Department of Agriculture
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 640
Alexandria, Virginia 22302-1594.

Please be aware that your comments are public record. All comments submitted in response to this proposed rule will be included in the record and will be made available to the public. FNS will make the comments publicly available on the Internet via http://www.regulations.gov.

Sample Letter:
The proposed rule for nutrition standards in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) needs to put a higher priority on providing children with nutritious, plant-based foods in order to combat the rising rates of childhood obesity and its related health conditions. The NSLP and SBP have maintained an over-reliance on “cheap” surplus meat and dairy products, with taxpayers footing the bill in the form of rising health care costs and huge subsidies to animal agriculture.

To ameliorate these problems, the USDA should make the following important modifications to the proposed rule:

  • Require healthful beverage alternatives to dairy milk — such as soy milk or rice milk — be available at every meal;
  • Require at least one vegan meal choice be available at every meal based on naturally nutrient-dense whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.

 

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