Couched in the emotional appeal of leaving no child hungry, Assembly Bill 805, introduced in Wisconsin, is based on a perilous assumption: school lunches are healthy.
The Healthy School Meals for All bill, introduced by Representative Kristina Shelton, would make school breakfast and lunch available to all Wisconsin K-12 students at no charge to them. The premise that school meals should be “treated the same as textbooks, gym equipment, or library books – as a free resource to support learning and development,” as the initiative asserts – is compelling, but only if those meals actually support learning and development. Sadly, we know that much of the US food supply does the opposite: It interferes with learning, causes neurological damage, and compromises, not just development, but mental health.
Under the bill, the government (tax payers) must reimburse an eligible school an amount equal to the free meal reimbursement rate for each meal the eligible school serves. Moms Across America supports free-meals-for-all-students programs, but these bills don’t go far enough, including Assembly Bill 805.
They must ensure the free food is safe first, or this will only translate to paying the government (more than we already do) to line the pockets of industrial food conglomerates that poison our kids. And it will further normalize popular, toxic, disease-causing food.
Last year, Moms Across America exposed the level of known toxins in school lunches, with independent, third-party lab testing. The results were sobering:
- 95.3% of the school lunch items contained carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting, and liver disease-causing glyphosate.
- 74% of the samples contained at least one of 29 harmful pesticides.
- 4 Veterinary drugs and hormones were found in 9 school lunch samples at levels up to 130.76 ng/g.
- 100% of the school lunch samples contained heavy metals at levels up to 6,293 times higher than the EPA’s maximum levels allowed in drinking water.
- The majority of the samples were abysmally low in nutrients.
Our recent fast food testing showed that the top 21 fast food brands that supply nearly 30 million school meals a day were found to have toxic levels of heavy metals and agrichemicals but at the same time provided necessary nutrients at a level that would result in serious nutrient deficiencies. This must change before we pour more toxic fake food into these kids, or they may be better off eating at home!
One reason for concern is school eligibility for the additional state reimbursement this bill provides is based on the National School Lunch Program and the Federal School Breakfast Program, which look to the USDA standards for food safety. We know these standards are inadequate. Unless provisions are added to the bill to ensure the food is sourced from suppliers who are third-party tested for toxins like lead, cadmium, arsenic, glyphosate, and damaging pesticides (all of which were found in the fast food testing MAA conducted), it will result in more of the same neurologically, and cognitively harmful, nutrient-deficient and nutrient-sucking-glyphosate- (because it binds to vitamins and minerals) food to which kids are already excessive exposure. There is no safe level of many of these toxins, like lead.
There is also a brow-raising provision in the bill in SECTION 1. 20.255 (1) (jg) of the statutes amended to read:
20.255 (1) (jg) School lunch handling charges. The amounts in the schedule for the transportation, warehousing, processing, and insuring of food products granted to this state by the federal government. All moneys received from contracts made under s. 115.34 (1) (1r), under which food products granted to the state by the federal government are utilized, shall be credited to this appropriation.
Healthy food is generally not highly warehoused, shipped, processed and supplied by the federal government. Unfortunately, this language does not incentivize sourcing real food from local farmers who are vetted to not use toxic chemicals (e.g., most of the heavy metals in large factory farms are believed to come from Big Ag fertilizers).
Fresh, minimally processed, non-GMO food, grown without toxic agricultural chemicals must become the standard if we are to begin to see a downtick in the chronic illnesses American children are currently experiencing. This bill needs a strong, serious, co-sponsor that will insert concrete language with built-in accountability for supporting organic and regenerative food sourcing and school scratch kitchens.
Scratch kitchens not only insure minimally-processed, nutrient-dense food, but provide an opportunity to support the local economy. Though the bill mentions this, there do not seem to be specific provisions currently, as written, to execute it. The combination of enforceable, toxicity-informed food sourcing, along with use of scratch kitchens, is the only way to make free meal programs meaningful in terms of actually improving children’s health. Otherwise, this bill rests on the same sad, misleading premise the campaign for Big Pharma baby formula uses: “Fed is best” –nevermind the toxins and lack of necessary nutrients. We can do better for our kids.
Preferably, food sourced for schools should be organic and regeneratively grown, but if not ordained by these certifications, it needs to be at least regularly tested for the most toxic, knowingly harmful chemicals we are currently finding in lab testing of the very food that supplies schools. School districts should be charged with holding their food suppliers to this standard. The USDA standards are not even close.
Moms Across America implores our congressional representatives to step up to the mic on this bill. Co-sponsor it, and other bills like it, only with the necessary provisions to make it meaningful and actionable in protecting and nourishing children with proper sourcing and scratch kitchen meal prep.
We also have a new set of petitions to fast food companies that create a huge opportunity for momentum on our most recent lab testing results. These are the same companies we tested, which serve 85 million people a day, and nearly 30 million school meals a day. This is worth pushing! This way, if bills like this do pass, the food suppliers will have at least cleaned up their ag practices to some degree. That clean up can translate into the free meals being actually healthier.
Please help transform the suppliers of school meals by standing with us. Please sign our petitions and get to the root of real change in children’s access to truly healthy food. And congressional offices, please contact us if we can help inform or consult on language that will make bills like this actually translate to healthier American kids.