Action Alerts

See H.R. 4108 The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Act of 2021 Below for Details to Take Action

Action Alerts

 Below you will find actions that you can take at the federal, state, and local level. Help make a difference and get involved. In addition to legislative action, you can Create Change in your own local school district. Your voice does matter, and you can make a difference!

Federal

You can find your Senator here (use down arrow to select your state) and your Congressperson here (enter zip code in top right corner) if you wish to communicate with them about these bills. Learn more about H.R. 4108 below.

H.R. 4108 The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Act of 2021

Make a Difference Today 

  • Call your Congressional Representative today! It’s easy with our guidelines below. Details below. 
  • Send an “email” through your Congressional Representative’s website contact form. Details below.
  • Post on Social Media. Details below.
  • You can learn more about H.R.4108. Details below. 

* Call Your Congressional Representative Today *

It’s not hard to make a call and encourage your Congressperson (also called Representative) to support a bill that you care about. Call 833-394-7290 and enter your zip code. They will automatically connect you to your Representative’s office. You can also look up your Congressperson/Representative’s phone number and website here. Enter your zip code in the box on the top right. The phone number is on the bottom left of the page that you are directed to.  

Guidelines for Your Phone Call:

1. Always be positive and friendly!

2. Introduce yourself and where you live. If you are a student/teacher/food service staff person/principal/administrator tell them what school you go to/work in.

3. Tell them why you want plant-based options in schools. Give examples of your own challenges, if you have had them. For example, you might include some or all of the following:

  • Plant-based options are a healthy choice for all students and school staff, not just those who only eat plant-based foods.
  • The more plant-based foods we eat, the stronger our immune system.
  • There are many plant-based recipes that feature foods from around the world – and offer the opportunity for culturally appropriate meals.
  • Plant-based foods have a smaller environmental foot print that animal based foods. Eating more plant-based foods is the single biggest thing anyone can do to address climate change.
  • Greater plant food consumption results in better grades and better behavior.
  • Those who follow a plant-based diet have less depression and anxiety.
  • Those who follow a plant-based diet have lower rates of the common diet-related disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
  • It does not cost more to offer plant-based entrees, in fact they have been shown to be cost neutral or cost savings. Plant-based milks do cost more, and that’s something this bill can address.

4. Ask your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor to HR4108: The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Act of 2021.

 

* Email Your Representative Today (use their website contact form) *

Please write to your Congressional representative now. Contact details can be found here (enter your zip code into the box at the top right corner of the webpage). Once on your representative’s page, look for the CONTACT form. You can use the email below as is, or for even more impact, edit it to reflect your own style and additional thoughts:

Dear Representative __________,

I am writing to express my support for the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Act of 2021 (HR4108), a bill introduced by Senator Velazquez (D-NY).  I am asking for your support in co-sponsoring this bill, which aims to make it easier for schools to offer more healthy, plant-based, climate-friendly school meal options to kids.  I hope you will co-sponsor this bill because:

  1. Research has shown that increasing consumption of whole plant-based foods has substantial health benefits, including reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, maintaining a healthy weight, and protecting against certain forms of cancer and other diseases. (1)
  2. Students of color disproportionately rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition (2), so improving the quality of school meals has the ability to impact the students who are the most vulnerable.   
  3. The current requirement in the nutrition guidelines that dairy be offered without any plant-based alternative is discriminatory.  The National Institutes of Health estimates that 95% of Asians, between 60% to 80% of African Americans, 80% to 100% of American Indians, and 50% to 80% of Hispanics are unable to process lactose, while those of Northern European origin have an intolerance of about 20%. (3)
  4. Research has shown that we cannot meet the Paris Accord targets without shifting our diets towards more climate-friendly foods. (4) Plant-based foods are more climate-friendly than animal-based foods because of the high resource requirements for raising animals relative to plants. (5) With seven BILLION meals served in school each year, we have a chance to make a huge impact on our climate by taking this step.
  5. This bill does not take away animal-based options from kids who want to eat them.  It simply provides plant-based options that can benefit all kids, as well as the environment.  
  6. This bill is a voluntary pilot program, so schools must apply for funding which is given over a three year period.  This bill is not a mandate on all public schools to feed all of their students plant-based meals. 

Whether for health, environmental, philosophical, religious, taste or other reasons, students and their families are increasingly asking for more plant-based options at school.  Please consider co-sponsoring this bill and asking your colleagues to do the same.  Our children deserve it!  

Sincerely, 

<Your name and address here>

1. Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2 016 ;116 :19 70 -198 0;

McMacken M, Sapana S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14:342–354;

Micha, R., Wallace, S. K., & Mozaffarian, D. (2010). Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Circulation, 121(21), 2271–2283.

2. Price, J. et al. (2013). “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Chronic Diseases of Youths and Access to Health Care in the United States”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2013, Article ID 787616, 12 pages. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/787616

3. US Department of Health and Human Services. “Lactose Intolerance: Information for Health Care Providers.” US Department of Health and Human Services (2006): 1-6.

4. Poore, J. & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.

5. Heller, M. C. and Keoleian, G. A. (2015), Greenhouse Gas Emission Estimates of U.S. Dietary Choices and Food Loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19: 391–401. doi:10.1111/jiec.12174_, Supporting Information (3).

 

* Post on Social Media Today *

Post the image above, and link to this page

 

 

Learn More About H.R. 4108

H.R. 4108 is a federal bill introduced by Representative Velazquez (NY) that establishes a grant-based pilot program to support schools in providing healthy, climate-friendly plant-based meals to students. Currently, with seven billion meals served in school each year, serving healthy and climate-friendly plant-based food can have a dramatic impact on properly nourishing our children while also mitigating climate change.  However, schools often face barriers to serving this type of menu, such as a lack of technical assistance, insufficient training/education of food service staff and poor nutrition education for students and their families.

This legislation addresses all of these issues and more, by providing funds for:

  • Professional development training for food service personnel on serving (including preparing, procuring, marketing, and creating menus) plant-based food options
  • Technical assistance, pupil engagement and education on plant-based food and plant-based milk options, including providing taste tests, recipe development, and culinary education
  • Outreach to agricultural producers of meat alternates including socially disadvantaged farmers and local farmers
Importantly, this legislation prioritizes schools that have a high proportion of kids from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and who serve a high proportion of kids eligible for free or reduced price lunch, thus giving our country’s most vulnerable kids the chance to eat healthy, culturally-appropriate meals that helps them be better prepared for school each day.  The current requirement in the nutrition guidelines that dairy be offered without any plant-based alternative is discriminatory.  The National Institutes of Health estimates that between 60% to 80% of African Americans, 80% to 100% of American Indians, and 50% to 80% of Hispanics are unable to process lactose, while those of Northern European origin have an intolerance of about 20%.  So often, Black and Indigenous People of Color are excluded or marginalized in policies and federal programs, and this is also discriminatory.  This legislation prioritizes students of color and those disadvantaged students who need the most support.
 
Animal-based foods and cow’s milk are heavily subsidized.  However, even with these subsidies, we have found that schools we work with are able to successfully offer healthy, unprocessed plant-based main dish options which include beans, lentils and tofu that are either cost-neutral or offer a cost-savings to the schools when compared to animal-based foods.  Offering plant-based options on school menus is a win for all – they are climate-friendly, schools save money and our students are able to receive proper nourishment, allowing them to be better equipped for their school day.

 

 

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR)

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is a bill that is normally renewed every five years. Unfortunately, it became highly politicized, and expired in 2015 though the 2010 Child Nutrition Act continues to be the law (and associated regulations) that schools must follow. During the period that it has not been renewed, however, the bill was weakened, favoring the interests of the food industry rather than children’s health. The weakened regulations allowed flavored milk at the 1% fat level instead of just skim (1% fat milk is actually 22.5% fat, as a percentage of calories), allowing fewer whole grains, and stalling the reduction in sodium levels.

We look forward to working toward a new CNR that will put the health of children as the top priority.

 

 

 

 

State

New York State: S1726A301

Relates to requiring public schools to offer plant-based food options in food service

Bill in New York State introduced by League of Humane Voters of New York that would require schools to provide a plant-based meal at the request of students or persons in parental relation to students. Currently, the bill is in the Senate and Assembly Committees. Elected officials are concerned that it would cost more but our experience is that plant-based meals cost less or are at least cost-neutral. In New York City, the food cost for the vegetarian menu, at least at a point in the past, is 9 cents less than the standard menu. In Ithaca, the cost is cost-neutral. Based on the cost of the various menus in New York City, if they switched all schools to vegetarian menus, they could save over $10 million dollars per year. Please contact your New York State Senator and Assemblyperson now and urge them to pass this law. You can see the Senate bill here and the Assembly bill here. If you are a school district, a Food Service Director, or a business that would be positively impacted by this bill (for example, bean farmers), you can sign on to a letter to show your support. If you would like us to send you that letter for your review, please email us.  

 

S8291 / A10399

Relates to prohibiting the operation of establishments where animals and/or fowls are slaughtered and butchered for food.

Bill in New York State that would suspend the operation of live animal markets and create a seven member task force on the public health risks and animal welfare concerns of slaughterhouses.  Currently, the bill is in the Senate and Assembly Committees on Agriculture. The purpose of the proposed law is to eliminate live animal markets, a potential breeding ground for the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Many of these poorly regulated markets operate in close proximity to schools, homes and parks. These establishments have been issued violations by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for offenses including leaving animal blood and feces on public sidewalks, allowing grime to accumulate on butchering equipment, and other unsanitary conditions.

Not only are these markets cruel to the animals killed there (chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, cows and others), but they are hazardous to the health of the employees that work there and the customers who frequent them. Please let your legislators know your support the passage of this important legislation.

For both state bills:

Find your NY Senator’s email address here: https://www.nysenate.gov/find-my-senator

Find your NY Assembly Member’s email address here: https://nyassembly.gov/mem

 

Local 

There probably won’t be local laws passed to change the food in your local district, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference and effect change. It’s important to be strategic in approaching a local school, for example should you approach the food service director, the superintendent, a school board member, or a principal? It’s important to do your research and know something about the person you are going to reach out to. If the food service director has a history of being resistant to change, then starting with that person might not be the best choice (though we find most food service directors open to change, not all are). New York City works quite differently from many other school districts, so speaking with the mayor’s office, the borough president’s office, or your local council member could make a difference. What can you ask local schools to do? Check out our Create Change section.