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Velazquez & Bowman Introduce Legislation to Provide Plant-Based Entrées in Schools

Velazquez & Bowman Introduce Legislation to Provide Plant-Based Entrées in Schools
June 23, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D (D-NY) introduced the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act. This bill would create a voluntary grant program for school districts to help schools provide healthier, climate friendly, and culturally appropriate plant-based entrée options to students.
 
“Every child deserves healthy, nutritious, and sustainable meals that respects their choice,” said Representative Velázquez. “The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act will invest in the health of our children and help combat climate change by funding plant-based entrées in schools across the country. I’m proud to champion legislation that would deliver food justice for all and build a greener, healthier future for our kids.”
 
“At the same time as we invest urgently in the transition to renewable energy, we must build sustainable food systems at every level of our society — and our public education system can lead the way,” said Representative Bowman. “As usual, our young people understand this best: students and their families have been clamoring for healthy, plant-based, and culturally appropriate meal options at school. I am proud to stand with Rep. Velázquez in introducing this bill, which would advance food justice in marginalized communities, support local farmers of color, and nourish all Americans while fighting the climate crisis."

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.  
 
Research has shown, eating plant-based foods can help people maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and protect against certain forms of cancer and other diseases. According to the CDC, approximately 39% of New York City public school children in kindergarten through eighth grade are overweight or obese, and obesity now affects1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States.
 
This bill will not only improve the health of our children, but also help in the fight against climate change. Research has shown animal-based foods tend to be more carbon-intensive than plant-based foods. The bill would foster the development and accessibility to climate friendly food options in schools on our road to net-zero.
 
The funds that would be made available through the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act would provide for:

  • Culinary training and technical assistance for school foodservice operators and staff
  • Procurement costs of plant-based sources of protein and milk from socially disadvantaged producers, local producers, and women, veteran, and beginning farmers
  • Marketing and student engagement, such as conducting taste tests and providing nutrition education
  • Additional labor costs incurred in preparing and serving plant-based options
  • Partnering with small to medium sized plant-based food businesses and producers for professional development and training

School districts who serve a high population of food insecure students will be prioritized under the new pilot program.
 
“As a physician and a parent of a 1st grader, I very much want to see more plant-based options offered in our public schools,” said Asha Subramanian, MD, MPH, a Board-certified family medicine and lifestyle medicine physician. “By increasing access to delicious, plant-based school meal options, the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act will help reduce the risk of health problems for children, including type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Plus, children from underserved communities often rely on school meals as a main source of nutrition. This Act will help level the playing field for those most at risk for poverty and hunger. It's a win-win."
 
“The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act presents a quadruple win for student choice, racial equity, student health, and the environment,” said Chloë Waterman, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth U.S. “We are grateful to Representatives Velázquez and Bowman for introducing legislation to enable school districts to provide plant-based options to benefit our children and the planet.”
 
“There is a huge rise in youth wanting to eat more plant-based options either for the animals, their health, the planet, or for all of these reasons,” said Genesis Butler, the 14-year-old founder of Youth Climate Save. “Many are unable to do so though because they do not have access to plant-based meals. Since youth spend much of their time at school, it only makes sense for schools to provide plant-based meals. I urge everyone to support the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act because it will benefit us all.”
 
"We need a more holistic approach to meeting the overall needs of school-age children,” said Syra, a resident of Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY, whose children attend 2nd and 8th grade at public schools in Manhattan. “We need more fruits and vegetables, more nutrient-dense foods, more whole, organic, plant-based foods. No one in my family is vegan, but we eat a lot of plant-based foods at home and would like to see similar foods in schools. It would make it a lot easier for us working parents, especially parents who have children that require extra care."
 
"We must continue to right the historical wrongs of colonization which have led to great disparities in health, food security, and environmental justice, most of which is felt by Black, Indigenous, and students of the Global Majority,” said Eloísa Trinidad, New York City Chapter President for Hip Hop is Green and Executive Director of Chilis on Wheels. “Any student going hungry throughout their school day because the food offered is either not culturally appropriate or doesn’t meet their other needs is unacceptable. We must include students who have dietary restrictions whether due to a food allergy, philosophical, or cultural reason. No child should ever be hungry. Providing proper sustenance through school food is one of the ways in which we can give every student an early chance to succeed. The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act starts to reimagine what empowering our students for a better future looks like. Giving students the right to choose not only has the potential to nurture their bodies but also to strengthen their mental well-being."
 
“We are pleased to support the Heathy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act, as the time has come to prioritize health in our children’s school meals, and allow for plant-based options,” said Nancy Kalish, Founder & CEO of Rule Breaker Snacks, a plant-based healthy snack manufacturer located in Representative Velázquez’s district. “We applaud Congresswoman Velázquez’s leadership to ensure children and schools have access to healthy food options, and the training and education to ensure that healthy food programs are a success.”
 
“We know that students need to be eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and pulses, which must lead us to serving more healthy, plant-based options in schools,” said Chef Ann Cooper, founder of the Chef Ann Foundation and former Food Services Director for Boulder Valley Unified School District. “Schools often face cost, technical, educational and marketing barriers to serving plant-based meal options since federal subsidies often make animal-based foods cheaper. The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act will start to level the playing field so that school districts can meet the growing need for healthy, delicious plant-based menu items.”
 
“Healthy, balanced, and culturally appropriate meals are no longer nice-to-haves on school menus, but are in fact critical to both the short- and long-term wellbeing of our children, families, and communities,” said Audrey Lawson-Sanchez, executive director of the public health organization Balanced and a former educator. “This Act to help schools meet the nutritional needs of their students while also promoting equity and inclusivity should be celebrated. As a mother and public health advocate, I am thrilled to see this legislation introduced and hope this is just the first of many policies of its kind.”
 
“Only through appropriate education will children learn to have more than a consumer relationship with the earth and all of its bountifulness. With legislation like the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act, we can increase our healthy, climate-friendly nutrition education efforts across the board” said Betti Wiggins, CPM, Officer at Houston Independent School District Office of Nutrition Services.
 
“We applaud Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Rep. Jamaal Bowman for the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act, especially at a time when schools are a nutritional lifeline for many households,” said Peter Lehner, Managing Attorney of the Sustainable Food & Farming Program at Earthjustice. “ This bill helps schools to provide more options, so that healthier, more climate-friendly meals are available and accessible to students who may choose them. Industrial meat production creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world’s transportation combined, and animal feeding facilities pollute our waters, cultivate the decline of rural communities, and exacerbate and perpetuate racial injustice. This bill helps reduce food-related climate change, promote health and nutrition in schools across the country, and strengthen communities – all by providing more choice.”
 
The legislation is also endorsed by Friends of the Earth, Balanced, Plant Based Foods Association, Bronx Impact Coalition (20+ organizations), New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), Center for Biological Diversity, NYC Healthy School Food Alliance, Chef Ann Foundation, Black VegFest, Better Food Foundation, Cultivate Empathy for All, Food Revolution Network, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Lean and Green Kids, Plantrician Project, The Center for Food Safety, Raven Corps, Berry Good Food Foundation, Real Food Foor Kids, Earthjustice, Food Corps, National Farm to School Network, Chilis on Wheels, Lunch Assist, Nourish Colorado, Acterra, Earth Gen, Farms to Grow, Plant-Based Kids Foundation, Zero Hour, Sunrise, 50by40, A Well-Fed World, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Brighter Green, Compassion in World Farming, Del Norte and Tribal Lands Community Food Council, Farm Forward, Food Empowerment Project, Garden City Harvest, Hazon, Humane Society of the United States, Northern Arizona Rural Foods Pathways Project (NAZ RFPP), Oceanic Preservation Society, Pro Veg, Social, Compassion in Legislation, True Health Initiative, World Animal Protection, Eat for the Earth, Friends of the Noyo River, GFI, Having Kids, PHARM, GARDEN, Oceanic Global, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, The Green Scheme, Don't Mute My Health, FRESHFARM FoodPrints, North West Initiative, Ottawa Food, Virginia Organizing, Brooklyn Borough President's Office, Black Vegetarian Society of Maryland, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Plant Based Nutrition Movement, Plant Powered Metro NY, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Kellogg Company, National Education Association, PlantPure Communities, Strategies for Ethical and Environmental Development (SEED), Switch4Good, Transformations CDC, Coalition for Healthy School Food, Coalition for Sustainable Food Practices, Lunch Assist, DC Greens, First Focus Campaign for Children, Center for Food Safety, McFarland & Associates, Inc., Food Shift, FoodStream Network, Hip Hop is Green, Texas State Teachers Association, Oregon Education Association, The Virsa Foundation Inc, Animal Hero Kids, Plant-Based Advocates - Los Gatos, Oakland, Food Policy Council, HOPE Collaborative, Cafeteria Culture, The Planetary Health Collective, WELL/BEINGS, Healthy School Food Maryland, Wellness in the Schools, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (COPC): WA State, Natural Resource Defense Council, The Urban Wild, 163rd Street, Improvement Council, Inc., A to Z Impact, The HAPPY Organization, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, 350.org, Alliance for Plant Based Inclusion.

In addition to Velázquez and Bowman this bill is cosponsored by: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mark Takano, Yvette Clarke, Earl Blumenauer Nanette Diaz Barragán, Ayanna Pressley.

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