On June 2, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously approved the D.C. Healthy Schools Act, which will make vegan options, including fresh fruits and vegetables, more widely available in D.C.-area schools. Both the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Farm Sanctuary are actively campaigning to pass a federal Healthy School Meals Act (H.R. 4870), which would help nationwide schools provide more plant-based meals and non-dairy beverages.
H.R. 4870, which has drawn support from various celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Tavis Smiley, and Scarlett Johansson and Tobey Maquire is a much-needed amendment to the Child Nutrition Act, the 45-year old law which governs the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Both vegans and meat-eaters alike can agree that school lunches are a nutritional nightmare, high in fat, calories, and cholesterol. According to a blog by Care2′s Kayla Coleman, children who eat school lunches are more likely to be overweight or obese than kids who bring their lunch from home. It’s not hard to figure out why, considering that chicken nuggets, hot dogs, pizza boats, and mystery meats are staples in most school cafeterias
The Obama administration is currently working to overhaul the Child Nutrition Act and revise school lunch guidelines in accordance with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations. Last fall, an Institute of Medicine panel called on the National School Lunch Program to limit the fat, calories, and sodium in school meals and to increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains served. In the past, the Institute of Medicine has urged school lunch programs to offer fewer animal fats so that children aren’t exposed to so many dioxins—cancer-causing toxins found in meat and milk.
Several school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, Wayland Public Schools in Framingham, Mass., and Gwinnett County public schools in Atlanta, already offer vegetarian options. By supporting H.R. 4870 and encouraging more schools to offer healthy vegan options, we can help cultivate healthy eating habits that will last kids a lifetime.