On Wednesday, April 21, concerned citizens nationwide will join Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, in a National Call-In Day to urge legislators to support H.R. 4870, the Healthy School Meals Act.
Introduced in March, this new legislation would offer financial incentives to school districts that offer their students plant-based food options and non-dairy beverages. “If passed, the Healthy School Meals Act would have a tremendous impact on children’s health, farm animals, and the environment,” said executive director of Farm Sanctuary, Dr. Allan Kornberg. Dr. Kornberg has practiced both primary care pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, and recently served as Senior Vice President for the National Initiative for Children’s Health Quality. “As a pediatrician with more than 25 years of clinical and executive leadership experience in medicine, I am keenly aware of the impact diet has on child development. American children are increasingly affected by obesity and other adverse health conditions related to a poor diet.”
Schools participating in the National School Lunch Program receive cash subsidies and donated commodities and surplus foods from the USDA. School lunches must meet federal nutrition requirements, but specific food options are determined by local school food authorities. The Healthy School Meals Act would make plant-based proteins and non-dairy milk an affordable option for schools, increasing the accessibility of these healthy foods to students nationwide.
Dr. Kornberg, who once acted as CEO of Network Health, a Medicaid health plan serving the poor in Massachusetts, remarked, “Good health should not be an economic issue. The federally-assisted National School Lunch Program provides low-cost or free lunches to more than 30 million children each school day. These families rely on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs to deliver proper nutrition to their children. The act would help schools that cannot currently afford to do so provide healthy, cruelty-free options to their students.”
The act would also address the nutritional needs of countless children who choose to abstain from consuming animal products for ethical, health, environmental, religious, or other reasons. Currently, students are granted access to dairy alternatives only after acquiring a doctor’s note. The new legislation would do away with this requirement and thus further increase access to these compassionate options. Whereas in the past, schools may only have provided water or juice to students abstaining from milk, the new bill specifies that nutritionally-equivalent alternatives must be offered, guaranteeing that these students would receive a healthy, balanced diet.
On Tuesday, April 20, Dr. Kornberg will join Elizabeth Kucinich, Director of Public Affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), and student activist, Nina Gonzalez, for a conference call to inform citizens further on the Healthy School Meals Act and offer advice on becoming an effective citizen lobbyist.
“By adopting a plant-based diet, Americans may reap dramatic health benefits while they simultaneously act with kindness and decency toward farm animals,” added Dr. Kornberg.” The Healthy School Meals Act would both safeguard the health of America’s youth and encourage students to make compassionate choices for animals at every meal.”