First Lady Michelle Obama made a stop in Kansas City last week to promote her Let’s Move initiative, which aims to “raise a healthier generation of kids.” We’ve all heard the statistics. Currently in this country one in three children are overweight or obese. Two thirds of the entire American population is overweight or obese. Closer to home, numbers were recently released showing Kansas as the 16th most overweight state and Missouri as the 12th. Something needs to be done. This isn’t about politics, and this isn’t about vanity. This is about health.
Obesity is a major precursor to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and more. These are diseases that afflicted adults in previous generations but are becoming increasingly, and alarmingly, prevalent in children. These diseases of affluence (or lifestyle diseases) are largely preventable with simple lifestyle changes: more activity and more whole foods.
Dietary habits learned during childhood affect one’s health for a lifetime. These habits start at home, but it is also important for our schools to provide good nutrition—after all, schools provide at least one meal, if not two, per day to our nation’s children. Plant-based meals are the most healthful options available (and, sorry schools, I’ve seen what you serve and French fries do not count as a vegetable!). Aside from providing a plethora of nutrients, plant-based foods are generally lower in fat and less calorie dense. They are also 100% free of cholesterol (cholesterol is only found in animal products) and provide lots of fiber (fiber is not found in any animal products). Oh, and in case you were wondering, they also provide an abundance of protein.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 4870: The Healthy School Meals Act of 2010 to encourage the inclusion of healthful plant-based options in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. The bill introduces plant-based foods to schools and makes them more accessible and more affordable. H.R. 4870 provides incentives for schools to offer healthy meals and removes restrictions on providing non-dairy milk alternatives with school lunches. Bonus: in addition to being nutritious, plant-based options are compassionate and truly environmentally sustainable.
You can read the full bill or its summary, and you can also track its progress, by clicking here. H.R. 4870 will hopefully be voted on during the 111th Congress. I feel that this is a very important issue. If you do, too, I encourage you to contact your local Congressman to ask for his/her support.