Pull the Wieners


OK, get your mind out of the gutter. Let’s get down to business.

Lest you believe I routinely champion the all-American hot dog, let me voice my support for one of the Cancer Project’s important causes: purging hot dogs from school lunch menus.

Adults can make their own dietary choices—the good and the bad, the ugly and the “wurst.” As I wrote Tuesday about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit: “Eating a Denny’s Scramble is a personal decision. Eating a healthy organic diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, is a more sensible one.”

Children, however, are captive audiences. I’ve long decried the insufferable advertising campaigns that fast-food chains have conducted to McBribe them. The Cancer Project also condemns such tactics, and I applaud their lobbying efforts to send school-supplied hot dogs straight to detention. 

“As a physician in the Greater Philadelphia area, I have seen unhealthful foods increasingly contribute to Pennsylvania’s epidemic of obesity and other medical problems, especially in our young,” says family practitioner Ana M. Negrón, MD, a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). “Sadly, this problem is occurring nationwide. Hot dogs and other processed meats contain artery-clogging fat and cholesterol.”

PCRM petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October “to stop offering processed meats for purchase, subsidy and reimbursement under the federal school breakfast and lunch programs,” Dr. Negrón says. “The petition asks the USDA to encourage schools to include alternatives to processed meat products.”

Her solution?

“When parents, schools and doctors come together and demand more fresh fruits, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables; nutritious meatless options, such as rice and beans, oats and other whole grains; and model healthful nutrition, the children will learn to demand it for themselves,” she concludes. “In the meantime, it’s up to the adults to ensure that children are making healthier choices.”

For resources on changing your school district’s menu options, visit Chef Ann Cooper’s website. The “renegade lunch lady,” who sat on the National Organic Standards Board, has issued a National School Food Challenge.

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