Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boycott meat and dairy in the school lunch

School Lunches Should Provide Nourishment, not Disease
by Heather Moore

Time for schools to start teaching kids the importance of a healthy, low-fat diet. They can do this best, not in the classroom, but in the cafeteria. Health teachers' efforts to encourage children to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains will have little impact if the lunch ladies continue serving kids cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, chocolate milk and other high-calorie, cholesterol-laden foods that fatten our kids and send them on their way to an early grave.

According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 30 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight and 15 percent are obese. Rates of obesity-related diseases-such as type-2 diabetes, asthma and hypertension-are rapidly rising in young people.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that children as young as two be screened for high cholesterol, and that kids as young as eight could start taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Schools can help remedy this problem by serving vegetarian meals. Unlike meat, eggs and dairy products, plant-based foods contain no cholesterol and have even been shown to reverse heart disease. The late Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote, "Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer."

Fortunately, many progressive schools are making it easier for students to choose healthy cholesterol-free fare. Pinellas County Schools in Florida received the highest grade on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's (PCRM) 2007 school lunch report card. North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, and the San Diego Unified School District also scored high marks for enticing kids to eat healthier.

The Bloomfield Central School District in upstate New York provides locally grown vegetables and fruits, whole grain and bean salads, and vegan soups. Schools in Collier County, Fla., offer soy products and fresh fruits and vegetables. Grady High School in Atlanta has an all-vegetarian lunch line, and all 110 Gwinnett County Public Schools-

also in Atlanta-offer tofu-based corn dogs, veggie burgers, faux chicken sandwiches, soy milk and other vegetarian options.

A student-run Smart Cart at James Logan High School in Union City, Calif., was so successful that the school incorporated vegan foods into the regular lunch menu. Wayland Public Schools in Framingham, Mass. serve hummus, salad, and other vegetarian options, and students at schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District-the second-largest school district in the nation-have access to various vegan foods.

Kids at Rockland Country Day School in N.Y. are served only vegetarian meals, as are the preschoolers at BellaVita School in Longmont, Colo. The tots even help grow fruits and vegetables in a community garden.

It's time for all schools in the nation-private and public-to provide vegetarian meals to help our kids slim down and grow up healthy. After all, the school lunch line should be a source of nourishment, not disease. If your child's school serves vegetarian meals on a regular basis, please let me know about it.

1 comment:

  1. Please note that the Rockland Country Day School does not serve only vegetarian meals. We serve both meat and plant protein entrees every day, as well as a freshly made soup, fresh vegetable and complex carbohydrate side dishes, and a salad bar with twenty options, including salad greens, olives, sprouts, tofu, legume or whole grain salads, fresh fruits, and a freshly made dressing of the day. The lunch period is a window for critical learning and modeling of attitudes toward food that will form healthy eating habits for life.