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Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser Asks Congress to Pass Healthy School Meals Act

Bob HarperBob Harper, fitness and nutrition trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, has helped millions of viewers understand how what they eat affects their weight. Now, he’s taking that message to Capitol Hill. Harper recently left a phone message for members of Congress asking them to support the Healthy School Meals Act, H.R. 4870.

“As a personal trainer, I work hard to provide people with the tools and encouragement to stay fit and well,” says Harper, who recently announced that he has transitioned from a vegetarian to a vegan diet. “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects obesity can have on people’s lives, and I’m determined to help fight this epidemic. I support the Healthy School Meals Act, H.R. 4870.”

Last month, the House Education and Labor Committee released a draft version of the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010, a bill to reform the National School Lunch Program and other child nutrition programs. Although the draft includes modest increases in nutrition standards for federal child nutrition programs, it does not include provisions of the Healthy School Meals Act that would help schools offer more healthful, plant-based options, which are naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol free, and full of fiber.

Findings in a new PCRM study show that public school students will enthusiastically embrace healthy lunch options. Recently published in the Florida Public Health Review, the study looked at sales of low-fat, plant-based entrées among students in the Broward County Public School District, the sixth-largest school district in the country. The remarkable results: Low-fat vegan options accounted for more than half of the average number of meals sold at each school on study days.

The study was conducted by PCRM dietitians and the program manager of nutrition education and training for Broward County Public Schools. Following the success of the trial, the district now provides meatless options—including rice and beans, veggie chili, and garden burgers—to students on a regular basis. The new menu items have been successful with vegetarian and nonvegetarian students, and also help schools meet federal nutrition standards.

On July 13, PCRM dietitian Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D., will take this message to school food service directors at the School Nutrition Association’s annual national conference. At PCRM’s “Plant-Strong Vegetarian Product Showcase,” association members will learn how all students benefit from plant-based options. Strong will be joined by Rip Esselstyn, author of The New York Times best-seller The Engine 2 Diet, which teaches how plant-strong foods can optimize health.

Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.
Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.

PCRM Online, July 2010

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