Tag Archives: USDA

Too many American schools are still flunking lunch!

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This summer the City of Worcester ran a kick-ass summer lunch/snack program for low-income/hungry kids at our parks – the USDA’s national Summer Food Service Program! This blue bus (pictured above) could be seen rolling down our city streets, even making stops at our branch libraries! … School’s begun! Hola, Ms. Lunch Lady! Unlike lots of school districts, the Worcester Public Schools work to incorporate fresh veggies and fruits into students’ meals – at every grade level! AND EVERY STUDENT CAN GET A FREE LUNCH! Go, WPS, go!!! – Rosalie T.

By Heather Moore

I don’t care what kids say — the school lunch lady is not trying to kill them. The federal government is. Well, I have my suspicions, at least. Many of the meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program are high in fat and cholesterol and contain considerably more sodium than fiber. They’re a heart attack in the making. I wonder if that’s why the American Heart Association has warned us that atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries — begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood, at which point it can lead to coronary heart disease.

Most American schools serve the same artery-clogging meals that were served when I was a student, and frozen meals still had to be baked in the oven. How can we expect students to take a health teacher’s “healthy eating tips” seriously when their school cafeteria is serving unhealthy foods?

Salisbury steak, pepperoni pizza and chicken nuggets need to go the way of film projectors and hand-crank pencil sharpeners. And fast-food corporations should also be expelled from schools — or at least suspended until they serve more plant-based meals.

As Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says, “Fresh produce, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that study after study has shown to be quite literally lifesaving .… [D]iets high in animal protein are associated with a fourfold increase in the chance of dying from cancer or diabetes — making heavy meat and dairy consumption just as dangerous as smoking.”

Responsible parents teach their children not to smoke because cigarettes cause cancer and other health problems. For the same reason, they should make sure their kids don’t get hooked on hamburgers and other unhealthy foods. Let’s put more emphasis on teaching children to eat vegan meals — at school and at home. Kids will gladly eat plant-based meals, such as pasta, veggie burgers and black bean chili, if they’re delicious as well as nutritious.

Knowing this, the Coalition for Healthy School Food created the Cool School Food program to develop, test and implement plant-based meals in school cafeterias. The program — which helped two public schools in New York implement the first entirely plant-based school menus in the U.S. — aims to make it fun and exciting for young people to try new foods and learn about their health benefits.

Food Is Elementary, another school program that was recently featured in VegNews magazine, is also working to introduce children to plant-based foods, which the kids prepare and eat as part of a curriculum established by the founder of the Food Studies Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that helps school cafeterias incorporate low-fat, high-fiber foods into their menus.

We need more programs like these. Students are fed up with the unappetizing, inhumane and potentially disease-promoting fare that passes as lunch in many school cafeterias. Last year, students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago boycotted school lunch in an attempt to persuade officials to serve healthier meals, including more fresh fruit and vegetables.

That’s hardly an unreasonable request. The school cafeteria is supposed to be a source of nourishment, not disease. This year’s National School Lunch Week, which will be observed in October, aims to remind “parents, students and school officials that a healthy lunch helps students power through the day!”

But how can we expect kids to make it through the day — and learn compassion and empathy — if they’re eating unhealthy animal-based foods? We need to teach children that “v” is for vegan and serve them healthy, tasty, cruelty-free plant-based foods.

Go, Jimmy, go!!!! … McGovern Kicks Off Summer Meals Tour For Low-Income Students in Central Mass

NEXT MONDAY, JULY 18!!!

McGovern Kicks Off Summer Meals Tour For Low-Income Students in Central and Western Massachusetts

Congressman Jim McGovern will kick off his third annual Summer Food Rocks Tour next Monday to highlight USDA’s national Summer Food Service Program and how it helps ensure that low-income students in Massachusetts do not go hungry during the summer months when school is out of session.

This year’s tour includes visits to Worcester, Athol, Turner Falls, Ware and Webster.

As part of Congressman McGovern’s third annual tour, he will lead a roundtable with state and local leaders to talk about how the summer food program helps communities in need and visit summer meals sites at schools across the region.

Joining Congressman McGovern on the day-long tour will be:

· Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

· Kurt Messner, USDA Northeast Regional Administrator Food and Nutrition Service

· Candice Stoiber, USDA Northeast Region Director Special Nutrition Programs Division, Food and Nutrition Service

· Rob Leshin, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed. Acting Director of the Office for Nutrition Programs

The USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals to children 18 years and under at approved SFSP sites. Full info on Monday’s tour is below:

7:45AM – 8:10AM in ATHOL

Congressman McGovern; Julianna Valcour (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed); and Orange School Committee Leaders

Congressman Assists With Breakfast Service to Students

Athol High School, 2363 Main Street, Athol

8:40AM – 9:15AM in TURNER FALLS

Congressman McGovern; Julianna Valcour (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed); and Gill and Montague Regional School Leaders

Congressman Assists With Breakfast Service to Students

Unity Park, 7 First Street, Turner Falls

10:10AM – 11:15AM in WARE

Congressman McGovern; Ellen Parker (Project Bread Executive Director); Julie Wayman (Project Bread Child Nutrition Outreach Director); Christina Maxwell (Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Programs Director); Abby Getman (Food Bank of Western Massachusetts Planning and Advocacy Coordinator); Simca Hoorwitz (Eastern Massachusetts Director of the Massachusetts Farm to School); Ware Town Administrator Stuart Beckley; MA State Senator Anne Gobi

Summer Food Rocks Tour Roundtable Discussion

Ware Junior and Senior High School, 237 West Street, Ware

11:15AM – 11:45AM in WARE

Congressman McGovern; Amy Socolow (Summer Food Service Consultant – MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed.); MA State Senator Anne Gobi, Ware Town Administrator Stuart Beckley; and Ware School Committee Leaders;

Congressman Assists With Lunch Service to Students

Kaziol Elementary School, 4 Gould Road, Ware

12:35PM – 1:00PM in WEBSTER

Congressman McGovern, Amy Socolow (Summer Food Service Consultant – MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed.); MA State Rep. Joseph McKenna; and Webster School Committee

Congressman Assists With Lunch Service to Students

Park Avenue Elementary School, 58 Park Avenue, Webster

2:40PM – 3:10PM in WORCESTER

Congressman McGovern; Donna Lombardi (Worcester Public Schools Director of Nutrition); Jean McMurray (Worcester County Food Bank Executive Director); Liz Sheehan Castro (Worcester County Food Bank Director of Advocacy); Martha Assefa (Worcester Food and Active Living Policy Council); and Frances Canning (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed. Review Coordinator for Special Nutrition Programs)

Congressman Assists With Lunch Service to Students

Burncoat Preparatory School Playground, 526 Burncoat Street, Worcester

3:25PM – 4:00PM in WORCESTER

WHO: Congressman McGovern; Frances Canning (MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Ed. Review Coordinator for Special Nutrition Programs); Jean McMurray (Worcester County Food Bank Executive Director); Liz Sheehan Castro (Worcester County Food Bank Advocacy Director); and Martha Assefa (Worcester Food and Active Living Policy Council)

Congressman Assists With Lunch Service to Students

Girls Inc., 125 Providence Street, Worcester

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Jim works closely with REC. REC FARMERS MARKETS and REC Mobile Farmers Market blue van ACCEPT SNAP, WIC … ALL families can eat well! Times and places:
Farmers Market 1-1

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Rec mobile farmers market blue van! pic: R.T.

Mobile Market-1

Birds suffer – perpetrators get blanket immunity

By Jeffrey S. Kerr, Esq.

More than 500 birds die of starvation and parasites. Feral dogs attack and kill caged flamingos. Fifteen confined parrots perish in a fire. In every one of these cases, the federal authorities who are supposed to protect captive animals did absolutely nothing. How is this possible?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law that explicitly protects animals used in entertainment. For years, it excluded birds from protection under the Act, but in 2002, Congress amended its definition of “animal” to include all birds except those “bred for use in research.” The USDA subsequently updated its regulations to make it clear that birds (other than the unfortunate ones used in experiments) would be protected.

But in the 13 years since, the agency has yet to bring a single enforcement action on behalf of birds and has declined to regulate their welfare, even though many are suffering greatly and many have died as a result of neglect. Dealers, breeders and roadside displays can starve birds, deny them water, jam them into barren cages and never take them to a veterinarian—all with impunity.

Last year, the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park posted disturbing photos on its Facebook page of two blue-and-yellow macaws and a Goffin’s cockatoo lying dead at the bottom of filthy cages. The photos show the birds surrounded by disintegrating newspapers and excrement, with no trace of food or water visible. The cockatoo had apparently plucked the feathers out of his chest—something that birds do when sick or distressed. They probably all suffered from neglect, trauma, stress, starvation and dehydration before they died. Yet the USDA insists that it won’t take any action in cases like this.

On the same day that the USDA announced that it would protect birds—other than those used in experiments—it also acknowledged that birds needed regulations specific to their complex needs. After issuing a notice of the proposed new rules, it received more than 7,000 comments about the issue, so it hired an avian health-and-welfare expert. Yet to this day, more than a decade later, the agency has not written, much less published or enforced, any bird-specific regulations.

In the meantime, the USDA is purposely disregarding the fundamental protections that all animals are already afforded in the AWA. Every animal, including birds, needs safe housing, wholesome food, fresh water and routine veterinary care. But the agency’s position is that if bird-specific standards don’t exist, then birds aren’t protected.

After PETA took the USDA to court over this issue, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that even though the agency had failed to enforce the AWA and failed to impose bird-specific standards, its lack of action was not “unlawfully withheld” and concluded that it could not force the USDA to take action.

How can this be? And how many more birds will suffer and die while the USDA continues to do nothing? Every taxpayer and everyone who cares about birds should be questioning this senseless decision.

Summer shouldn’t mean hunger for our nation’s children

By Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

As a child, I always looked forward to the carefree joy of summertime. I remember the long days of playing outside at a nearby park until I needed to come home for lunch.  Unfortunately, many of our nation’s children do not experience the simple joys of summer.  In fact, far too many are left worrying where their next breakfast or lunch will come from when schools are dismissed for summer break.

During the school year, about 31 million American children receive school meals through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program every day. About 21 million of those children receive meals at a discounted rate or for free, based on their family’s income.  When summer rolls around, though, only about 3.5 million of these children participate in USDA’s summer meals programs.

That means millions of eligible low-income children are at risk of going hungry during the summer months. And we know that to thrive and reach their highest potential, children need good nutrition all year long.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is working to fill this hunger gap for children who qualify for free and reduced price meals during the school year. The program serves free healthy meals to eligible children ages 18 and under, and is made possible through the efforts of national, state, and local partners, including a cadre of energized volunteers.

While USDA has worked to increase access to summer meals for low-income children for many years, SFSP began receiving priority attention in 2013.  Last summer, USDA employed a new tactic of working with partners to deliver intensive, targeted technical assistance on SFSP in five states.  The result was a historic increase in the number of meals served, nationwide—7 million more than the previous year!  We hope to continue building on last year’s successes with our state and local partners in 2014, and move closer to closing the summer hunger gap.

The key to success this year will be expanding the number of sites open for summer meals. We must spread the word to schools, parks and recreation departments, libraries, and faith and other community organizations across the nation; their participation is critical for the continued success of SFSP. The deadlines to become Summer Food Service Program sponsors vary by State, and begin as early as April 15. Program sponsors oversee and provide meals to summer sites.  In return, USDA, through the States, reimburses program sponsors for the meals served to children.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say that galvanizing hundreds of faith-based groups, civic groups, recreation centers, food banks, schools, other non-profit organizations, and volunteers takes time, effort and commitment on all sides.  For any community that treasures its youth (and I haven’t met one that doesn’t), we must organize now to fight hunger this summer.

If you or your organization is interested in helping us reduce the risk of hunger among our nation’s youth, visit our website,www.summerfood.usda.gov. The summer meals outreach toolkit includes sample outreach plans, templates, customizable flyers, door hangers, letters to parents, examples of site activities, best practices, and more.  State representatives are also available to answer questions and facilitate sponsor enrollment and site registration.

This year, let’s work together to make sure every child in our great nation has a hunger-free summer.

Protesters will draw attention to Ringling Bros. Circus’ violent treatment of baby elephants!

PETA’S ‘ INJURED ELEPHANT’  TO  CONFRONT POTENTIAL CIRCUS GOERS IN WORCESTER!

What: An “injured elephant” will lead PETA protesters on Wednesday as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus prepares for its opening show in Worcester. The protesters will display signs that read, “This Is Ringling Baby-Elephant Training,” alongside banners emblazoned with compelling photos taken inside Ringling’s training center. The photos expose how baby elephants used by Ringling are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with steel-tipped bull hooks, and shocked with electric prods. These abusive sessions go on for several hours a day in order to force the baby elephants to learn to perform circus tricks out of fear of punishment. Actor Alec Baldwin recently narrated avideo  exposé that focuses on how circuses abuse elephants.

“Worcester residents would run screaming from the big top if they knew how baby elephants are violently forced to perform difficult, confusing, and sometimes painful tricks,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “Since children love  animals, the last place that parents and grandparents should take them to is the circus.”

Late last year, Ringling Bros. paid the largest fine in circus history—$270,000—for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Where: DCU Center, at the intersection of Major Taylor Boulevard and Foster Street, Worcester

When: Wednesday, October 3, 12 noon

For more info,  call or email, David Perle at 202-483-7382, extension 2194, orDavidP@peta.org.

For more information, please visit PETA’s website RinglingBeatsAnimals.com.

 

 

USDA Joins Nation’s Communities to Feed Children during Summer Meal Gap

By Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

While the kids are exuberantly shouting, “School’s out!” many parents may be quietly worrying just how they’re going to feed their kids all summer long. I want to assure those moms, dads and caregivers that USDA has a program that can help.

All it takes is a toll free phone call to find a USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site where children in low-income areas can get a free meal during the summer months when schools are closed. The National Hunger Hotline (1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-866-348-6479) can give you locations of Summer Food Service Program sites open in your local area. Just provide your zip code and the Hotline operator will tell you if there is a site near where you live. This information is also available to Spanish speakers, 1-877-8-HAMBRE.

Summer meals are free for children 18 and under at open sites. In addition to a healthy meal, the program offers enjoyable learning activities held in a safe place where kids can play with friends and make new ones.

Summer meal sites are located at libraries, schools, family centers, youth drop-in centers, park and recreation centers, faith-based organizations, day camps and food banks, and many other locations where children come together during the summer months. Sites offer activities such as arts and crafts, drama, sports, computer training, music and reading that keep kids interested and coming back day after day. I’ve personally visited many sites and know that the kids have a great time and enjoy good meals.

We need to spread the word so that more families, parents and children know about this program and can find a site in their community. I encourage parents and sponsoring organizations to work with their schools to send Summer Food Service Program flyers and other outreach materials home with students before the end of school. Our Website, www.summerfood.usda.gov includes templates for creating these materials.

SFSP is vitally important to the millions of kids who eat school lunch and school breakfast during the school year but have no nutritious alterative in the summer. Only 3 million of the 22 million students who receive free or reduced price meals in the National School Lunch Program participate in a summer feeding program either through SFSP or through their school.

Summertime should not be a hungry time for these kids. SFSP fills that gap. Healthy food gives kids energy so they can enjoy all the summertime fun, but also maintains their nutrition so they feel well and do well once they’re back in school.

At USDA, we’re committed to ensuring that all students have access to “food that’s in while school is out.” We are here to help parents and communities make that a reality this summer.

More hell for the animals of Ringling Bros. Circus! Please, Mr. President, help them!

By Ingrid E. Newkirk

Britain’s last remaining “circus elephant,” Annie, recently packed her trunk and went to live her final years on hundreds of acres of rolling lawns on a country estate. Her retirement came after the release of undercover video footage showing that circus workers kicked and thrashed her and jabbed her in the face with a pitchfork. Annie is almost 60 years old and has spent her life in a circus, which, for elephants, means “in chains.” The look on her face as she was forced to pose with the circus owner is enough to break any kind person’s heart.

Meanwhile, Ringling Bros. is still dragging its “beast wagons” around the U.S.

Anyone who cares about animals should stay away from this, the “Saddest Show on Earth.”

Three elephants who are traveling with Ringling – Karen, Nicole and Sara – suffer from what veterinarians say is chronic lameness and other problems, including arthritis, cracked toenails, which make putting weight on their feet painful, and scarring on their chins, the result of being struck many times by bullhooks — weapons resembling fireplace pokers with a metal hook at one end. Forty-two-year-old Karen also has a type of tuberculosis that is communicable to humans. She was banned from entering Tennessee earlier this year, but other states have failed to take similar action, putting children at risk and surely exacerbating the stress on Karen’s immune system.

Pop star Pink has written to President Obama, urging him to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act to stop circus cruelty. She included with her letter a copy of the 16-page complaint that PETA has filed with the USDA Office of General Counsel (OGC) detailing three cases of egregious animal abuse by Ringling.

The incidents are shocking.

Riccardo, an 8-month-old baby elephant, had to be euthanized after breaking both his legs while being put through a rigorous “training” regimen.

Clyde, a lion, baked to death in a boxcar when Ringling refused to stop the train — simply because it was running late — to cool him off and give him water during a long journey through the Mojave Desert.

Angelica, another elephant, was beaten by one of her handlers, despite the fact that she was chained and could not move.

These are all violations of federal law and need to be acted upon.

In 2006, the USDA assured then-Sen. Obama, who had contacted the agency on behalf of his constituents, that if violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) were found, prosecution would follow. The agency’s own investigators found AWA violations and recommended enforcement action, but nothing happened.

In the case of Riccardo, Ringling employees were quick to say that the baby pachyderm broke his legs while playing and that he hadn’t begun training, although it was later revealed in a lawsuit over beatings inflicted with bullhooks that Riccardo had in fact been undergoing a training program and had had ropes tied to his legs and trunk when he fell.

In the case of Clyde, a former Ringling lion handler described in an affidavit how Ringling tried to deceive the USDA by installing a sprinkler system inside the boxcar in which Clyde perished after the fact. According to USDA investigators, Ringling also refused to hand over crucial evidence, even after receiving a subpoena.

There is much more, but the key issue is whether our new OGC General Counsel Ramona E. Romero will do the right thing. As Pink points out, it is high time that the USDA made good on its promise to protect animals used and abused under the big top. Elephants may be the symbol of the Republican Party, but people of goodwill on both sides of the aisle should stick up for these sorely abused animals.

Ingrid E. Newkirk is the president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus comes to Worcester! Please boycott this traveling torture chamber!

editor’s note: For almost 10 years InCity Times has railed against the circus and all the businesses that exploit exotic animals – tigers, lions, elephants, bears.

Anything to make a buck – even if it means ripping these animals out of their natural environment, keeping them caged/enclosed all the time, keeping them in chains on hard cement and then forcing them (with electric prods, bull hooks, fire, whips) to do tricks, for people, most of whom would be repulsed by the “trainers” training techniques (animal cruelty!).

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is the worst offender, but all the mini circuses that come through town, with their tigers etc are horrific. Often times these animals are rented out for a month or two and then when one gig is over, go on to be slaves for another circus – or in a recent case, Southwicks Zoo in Mendon. Southwicks rented Dondi the elephant and she died in the middle of summer (2001), during which time she had to perform her tricks in the summer heat. We have reported on this tragedy and (along with IFAW) want to see the vet/health report on Dondi’s Death. Southwicks has refused to make Dondi’s records available to the news media/publilc.

In Western Europe, Bolivia, even in good ol’ Revere, Mass., exotic animal acts are banned (meaning no circuses that use these animals are allowed in the town/city) because people do not want to have majestic animals like the lion and elephant degraded and tortured. Other circuses like the cool Cirque de Soleil, circuses which don’t used wild animals, are welcome in these places. And people love them! Continue reading Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus comes to Worcester! Please boycott this traveling torture chamber!

Food inspectors failing the public — and animals

By Dan Paden

Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) veterinarian Dean Wyatt recently blew the whistle on his agency, telling a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that FSIS managers repeatedly ignored his warnings about unsafe and inhumane practices at slaughterhouses in Oklahoma and Vermont. While working at these facilities, Wyatt witnessed calves being dragged along the ground because they were too weak to stand, cattle being left to writhe in pain after they were haphazardly shot in the head with captive-bolt guns, pigs being trampled and crushed as they were unloaded off trucks and other atrocities.

On the same day that Wyatt testified before Congress, the Government Accountability Office released a report concluding that FSIS personnel consistently fail to enforce humane slaughtering standards.

Why should this matter to you? The same uncaring system that allows workers to beat animals without provocation and to cut pigs’ throats while the animals are kicking and squealing (actions that were witnessed by Wyatt) also allows carcasses contaminated with feces and vomit, tumors and abscesses, to be sent down the line. Continue reading Food inspectors failing the public — and animals

Giving farmed-animal abusers their due

By Dan Paden

With so many high-profile stories in the news lately—the passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, the Gov. Sanford scandal, post-election protests in Iran—you may not have heard about the historic victories for animals that are taking place in American courtrooms. It’s worth noting that two of PETA’s undercover investigations of factory farms have just resulted in groundbreaking animal abuse convictions—convictions that are both highly significant and long overdue. All too often, the abuse of animals in the meat industry is shrugged off as just the cost of doing business.

In a landmark case, two former Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., workers were convicted of cruelty to animals after they were indicted on charges stemming from PETA’s fall 2008 undercover investigation of the company’s West Virginia turkey farms. PETA’s investigator caught workers at the farms punching birds, mimicking the rape of a hen and more. Following our investigation, a grand jury indicted three workers on cruelty-to-animals charges, most of which were felony offenses—marking the first time in U.S. history that former factory-farm workers faced felony charges for abusing birds. Continue reading Giving farmed-animal abusers their due