The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act (H.R. 4108) seeks to create a pilot grant program to provide healthy, climate-friendly plant-based meals in our nation’s public schools. With 30 million students served lunch daily, the National School Lunch Program represents a crucial opportunity to mitigate food-related greenhouse emissions and environmental impacts, according to Jane DeMarines, CEO of Sustainable Earth Eating (SEE), a group aiming to reduce humanity’s dependence on resource-intensive cattle agriculture. An H.R. 4108 provision for a plant-based milk option would help the many students who cannot process lactose.
“Those children who wish to eat plant-based meals should have that option every day. Whether for health, environmental, or ethical concerns, no child should be made to eat foods they find objectionable,” DeMarines said in a letter encouraging House members to support the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.). The National Institutes of Health estimates 95% of Asians, 60 to 80% of African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews, 80 to 100% of American Indians, and 50 to 80% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant. Studies show eating plant-based foods have substantial health benefits, including reducing diabetes and heart disease risk, aiding healthy weight, and protecting against some cancers and other diseases. Research shows the Paris Accord targets cannot be met without shifting diets to more low-carbon foods such as plant-based foods.