|NEWS RELEASE||October 6, 2003|
Congress: Stop Fattening Kids with Giant Meat and Cheese Subsidies, Say Doctors
PCRM Calls on USDA to Stop Dumping Meat and Other Unhealthy Foods into National School Lunch Program
WASHINGTON— The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should stop putting agricultural interests before children’s health, says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in a testimony to be submitted to Congress tomorrow. As PCRM has previously revealed, the agency purchases hundreds of millions of pounds of surplus beef, chicken, cheese, and pork each year and then dumps them into government-subsidized programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The purchases are used to prop up sagging markets. A House hearing on the programs is scheduled for tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2175 of the Rayburn Building.
“The meat industry has used the National School Lunch Program as a gravy train, and our kids are paying the price,” says Jennifer Keller, R.D., the author of PCRM’s annual school lunch report. “By feeding kids high-fat, high-cholesterol foods, such as chicken nuggets and pepperoni cheese pizza, the agency is clearly contributing to our nationwide obesity and diabetes epidemics.” In 2001, the two government commodity programs that provide food directly to schools spent $518.1 million on cheese, beef, poultry, and eggs and only $161.1 million on fruits and vegetables.
“The USDA should teach good nutrition, not the ABCs of how to keep the meat lobby happy,” says Keller. “In the end, we all pay through the nose for these commodity programs—in expanding waistlines, higher insurance rates, and diminished health.”
The USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs, which include the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, among others, are undergoing reauthorization by Congress. In addition to urging the USDA to revamp its commodity programs and offer only healthy, vegetarian foods, PCRM is also calling on the agency to mandate that all meals served under the NSLP include a non-dairy, calcium-rich beverage.
Despite the public’s growing appetite for non-dairy beverages and awareness that lactose intolerance is extremely common among non-white populations, the USDA only reimburses a school district for a meal that includes cow’s milk. This forces schools that want to provide healthier alternatives to shoulder the financial burden themselves.
For more information about PCRM’s work to reform the National School Lunch Program, please visit HealthySchoolLunches.org.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.