Friday, April 23, 2010

The Healthy School Meals Act--will it help?

My brother alerted me to HR 4870, the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010, sponsored by Rep. Jarod Polis, D-Co. At first glance it seems like a great idea, but after reading the key provisions of the bill, I feel more than a little concerned.

One of the main provisions is this (emphasis mine):

The Healthy School Meals Act directs USDA to conduct a pilot program in which the Secretary provides to selected school food authorities at no cost plant‐based alternate protein products and nondairy milk substitutes. The USDA shall conduct an evaluation of the pilot program and shall be allocated an amount of $4,000,000 for program implementation.

The highlighted phrase above is troubling. It sounds like the bill would make it more possible for schools to provide soy burgers and soy milk, which is helpful for kids with milk allergies or who are vegetarian. However, this bill won't necessarily make kids healthier. It makes NO explicit provisions for increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables served to kids, which is what so many of our children really need. In addition, there are many who have concerns about soy, which is a heavily subsidized crop in the U.S., is already added to many processed foods, and is a suspected hormone disrupter.

There is a provision to provide additional funds for schools to purchase "plant-based commodities," but again, that doesn't specify fresh fruits and vegetables. Schools and school districts on tight budgets often have to maximize the return on their dollars, and funds go further for canned and processed foods than they will for anything fresh.

My brother suggested "use your mojo" with this, encouraging me to contact Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, and the director of public affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), one of the main organizations pushing for the passage of this bill. My "mojo" is the fact that our dad, who was a horticulturalist, worked for Cleveland's Department of Parks and Recreation back in the 1970s when Dennis Kucinich was mayor. I think I will--I have lots of questions about this one!


  1. Sigh. Things like this are why I'm leaning more and more toward the Libertarian Party. More and more legislation that doesn't actually do what it seems like it should do.

    This is why I pack my kids' lunches.

  2. I'm not so sure alternative soy based products are good for children, anyway, vegetarian or not. They are full of plant estrogens. Soy and corn are used to fatten cattle. They can fatten kids, too.

  3. He wasn't just a horticulturalist, he was the Commissioner of Parks for the City of Cleveland!

  4. Lisa, you figured out how to comment! I know; I just am leery about revealing too much personal info on the web. :)