Feb 22, 2022
Grammy Award-winning artist Billie Eilish and her mother Maggie Baird attended a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday in support of legislation that would implement plant-based meals in the U.S. school system.
"I'm proud to advocate for this legislation that will help to fight climate change, combat food insecurity, and promote health equity," said Eilish, singer, songwriter, and activist.
The bill--the Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act (H.R. 4108)--was introduced in June 2021 by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) The climate group Friends of the Earth (FOE) said it "would create a pilot grant program to help school districts overcome barriers to serving healthy, climate-friendly meals."
Demand for healthy, plant-based food has exponentially increased in recent years due to growing awareness of animal agriculture's calamitous impacts on the planet.
Widespread calls to reduce consumption of meat and dairy products follow extensive reporting from environmental studies, including research published in Nature Food in September 2021 that found nearly 60% of all global greenhouse gas emissions from food production are attributed to animal-based food, including livestock feed.
Tuesday's briefing featured a new video, created by a coalition of groups supporting the legislation--showcasing why students across the country are demanding more plant-based options at school.
However, schools are having trouble meeting those demands due to policy barriers that prioritize animal-based foods, said FOE.
"By providing schools with the resources they need to serve healthy, plant-based meal options, the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act will help to alleviate food insecurity, improve health and educational outcomes for our children, and fight climate change," FOE said in a statement.
Bowman said the bill represents an integral part of combating the climate crisis and could lead the way on sustainable food systems--while also advancing food justice in marginalized communities and supporting local farmers of color.
Eilish joined other food and environmental activists at the briefing, including Eloisa Trinidad, New York City chapter president for Hip Hop is Green and executive director of Chilis on Wheels, who noted how the roots of U.S. colonization helped to create the current food, health, and environmental disparities within Black, Indigenous, and minority communities.
"Black women experience the highest rates of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, but most of these illnesses can be prevented and often reversed by eating healthy, plant-based foods," said public health nutritionist Tracye McQuirter, bestselling author of Ageless Vegan and By Any Greens Necessary.
McQuirter said by ensuring all children have access to healthy, plant-based meals, the most vulnerable kids will acquire invaluable eating habits that will help shield them against preexisting inequities within their communities.
"Providing nourishing, plant-based school meals is crucial to improving the health of our kids and protecting the planet that they will inherit from us," said Baird, founder of Support and Feed, a plant-based food justice organization. "With climate catastrophe looming and racial health disparities worsening, Congress must prioritize passing the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act."
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