Doctors Say Meatless Meals Crucial to School Lunch Reform

Dec 02, 2010, 16:16 ET from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Senate Child Nutrition Bill a Step Forward but Congress Must Do More to Help Schools Fight Obesity with Healthy Vegetarian Options

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Congress finalizes child nutrition reauthorization legislation, doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) are urging lawmakers and President Obama to find additional ways to reduce fat and cholesterol in school lunches and give every child access to healthy vegetarian meals.

Meatless school lunch options were supported in H.R. 5504, the House of Representatives' version of the Child Nutrition Act, but the House has set that bill aside to pass the stripped-down Senate legislation. The Senate bill does increase funding for schools to purchase healthier foods, but health advocates are disappointed that the bill does not go further. For example, the Senate bill leaves out provisions specifically promoting meatless meals and does not go far enough in supporting dairy alternatives.

"One in three kids is now overweight, but many schools are still struggling to serve healthy lunches," says Neal Barnard, M.D., PCRM's president. "Schools should offer low-fat vegetarian options every day, and Congress and the president should take additional steps to give schools the resources to make that feasible."  

Over the past three decades, the prevalence of severe obesity in children has tripled. The journal Health Affairs recently published a study finding that the cost of hospitalizing obese children nearly doubled between 1999 and 2005. Diet-related diseases are also increasingly common: One in three American children will now eventually develop diabetes, according to public health experts.

If a student is able to choose a plant-based vegetarian meal option even once a week, he or she could reap important benefits. A veggie burger, for example, is similar in protein content to a hamburger. But while the hamburger has 15 grams of fat, the veggie burger has only 5, and it contains no cholesterol, fewer calories, and more fiber.

Vegetarian school lunch options are supported by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and celebrity parents such as Tobey Maguire and basketball star John Salley.

For an interview with a PCRM nutrition expert, please contact Jessica Frost at 202-527-7342 or

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.

SOURCE Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine