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Vilsak brings change to the table

Dear Editor:

President Obama’s nomination of Iowa’s Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture is a winner. In an interview this week, Vilsack called for the Department to “champion everyone who eats.” He may well be the first secretary to recognize that USDA’s mission is to provide a healthful food supply for the American people, rather than welfare checks to agribusiness conglomerates.

The best opportunity to apply this mission is our nation’s school lunch program, once used by USDA as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. According to USDA’s own surveys, 90% of American children consume excessive amounts of fat and only 15% eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.



Not surprisingly, nearly half of American children are overweight, 25% have high cholesterol and blood pressure, and 30,000 suffer from Type 2 diabetes, once limited to adults. Their early dietary flaws become lifelong addictions, contributing to the escalating public health crisis.

But change is on the way. Hawaii, California, New York, and Florida legislatures have asked their schools to offer daily vegan/vegetarian options. According to the School Nutrition Association, 52 percent of U.S. school districts now do. President Obama is likely to call for similar measures when the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized by Congress late this summer.




Parents and others who care about our children’s health should work with PTAs and school officials to demand healthful plant-based school meals, snacks, and vending machine items. Additional information is available at schoolnutrition.org, schoolmeals.nal.usda.gov, healthyschoollunches.org, and choiceusa.net.

Andrew Teller

Aspen


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