Billie Eilish went to Capitol Hill to show her support for the Healthy Future Kids and Earth Act (H.R.4108), which will make plant-based entrées more available to students around the country. In a statement, Eilish said, “I’m delighted to lobby for this legislation that will assist to battle climate change, reduce food insecurity, and promote health justice.”
The proposal, proposed by Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) in June 2021, aims to create a voluntary pilot grant program that encourages school districts to provide plant-based, environmentally friendly, and culturally relevant meals.
“Every child deserves healthy, nutritious, and sustainable meals that respect their choice… The Healthy Future Students and Earth 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,” stated Representative Velázquez.
Billie Eilish Takes Detour From Her Tour
Eilish is presently on the East Coast part of her highly anticipated Happier Than Ever World Tour, which she meticulously planned to include plant-based messages in order to raise awareness about the climate problem. The 20-year-old musician was joined on Capitol Hill by her mother, Maggie Baird, who founded the social justice nonprofit Support + Feed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to support struggling restaurants while also providing nutritious, plant-based meals to frontline workers and people in need.
“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… With climate catastrophe looming and racial health disparities worsening, Congress must prioritize passing the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act,” Baird stated.
Chlo Waterman, senior program manager at environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth U.S., moderated the Capitol Hill briefing. In a statement, Waterman said, “The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act presents a quadruple win for student choice, racial equity, student health, and the environment… We are grateful to Billie Eilish and Maggie Baird for using their platform to advocate for an equitable, plant-forward school meal program and to Representatives Bowman and Velázquez for their leadership on this important issue.”
Plant-Based School Meals
The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are now structured to reward schools that provide animal products, namely dairy. Participants in the program “cannot discriminate against the drinking of cow’s milk before, after, on school grounds, or at any school-sponsored event,” according to federal laws.
The new bill proposes to redirect funds to plant-based meals and beverages, which are better for both children and the environment. Furthermore, because people of color make up the majority of lactose intolerant Americans, the Healthy Future Kids and Earth Act will reward school districts that adopt food programs that are appropriate and nutritious for all children.
Several presenters at this week’s Capitol Hill briefing, in addition to Eilish and Baird, emphasized the necessity of providing plant-based meals to children of color. In a statement, Genesis Butler, the 15-year-old vegan founder of NGO Kids Climate Save, stated, “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… 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.”
Tracye McQuirter, a best-selling author, public health nutritionist, and founder of the 10,000 Black Vegan Women initiative, also spoke out in favor of the new law. “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… Ensuring our students have access to healthy, plant-based meals can help instill in them a lifetime of healthy eating habits that will mitigate the devastating impact these pre-existing conditions can have,” McQuirter stated.
Vegan Fridays in New York City
Schools in New York City—represented by Velázquez and Bowman—started a Vegan Fridays campaign, which was sponsored by Mayor Eric Adams, a proponent of a plant-based diet. The program has had a few snafus so far, but if this new law passes, it would get federal funding to enhance school lunches for the 930,000 pupils it serves.
Eloísa Trinidad, the executive director of Chilis on Wheels, an organization that serves vegan meals to individuals in need in NYC, is a local supporter of the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act. This legislation, according to Trinidad, is a strong instrument for helping children flourish by providing them with plant-based, culturally appropriate cuisine.
“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… 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. Providing proper sustenance through school food is one of the ways in which we can give every student an early chance to succeed,” Trinidad stated.
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