Home Indiana Agriculture News Commentary: Force Feeding Plant-Based Food to School Children?

Commentary: Force Feeding Plant-Based Food to School Children?

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Schools have long been a battleground for special interests, such as animal rights and radical environmental groups, to attempt to influence young minds.  Now plant-based foods interests are working to make their products mainstream in schools, and some lawmakers want to use tax dollars to help.

While there is nothing wrong with offering plant-based foods in schools as an option, to have the government mandate change and back it up with taxpayer dollars is bad policy. Plant-based foods are the hottest thing in the food sector today; and billions of dollars are being invested into the companies that produce plant-based products.  These products are very popular with younger consumers already, so a federal program to force feed students is not needed.

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D (D-NY) have 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.”  The measure “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,” said Representative Velázquez.

According to the authors of the bill, plant based-foods are better for kids and better for the environment than animal based foods are.

“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.”

While the release that announced the legislation did not document any of the research it referenced, it was also full of quotes degrading the food produced by our agricultural industry.

If this is how plant-based foods are going to be presented to school children, then this program seems to be nothing more than taxpayer funded propaganda. The facts are that agriculture and, in particular, the livestock sector are a very small contributor to greenhouse gasses.

Electricity production pumps seven times more GHG into the atmosphere than cows do. Row crop agriculture sequesters far more carbon than almost any other industry.  Students should not be made to feel guilty by consuming animal-based food products.  While plant-based foods have some nutritional benefits, they are also highly processed and contain very high levels of sodium.

This is not the first time social do-gooders have attempted to wrest control of the school lunch menu. Remember several years ago, when the Secretary of Agriculture imposed new mandates removing many meat and dairy options in favor of “healthier” choices?

Parents and nutritionists pushed back and the mandates were removed by Congress. This time, climate change and social justice are being added to the specious health claims as justification for the program.

American agriculture needs to push back against this kind of culinary dictatorship. The assertion that plant-based foods are better for people and better for the planet is a myth which should be exposed. We should not let critics denigrate the food we produce, and the scientifically safe and sustainable methods we use.