PCRM is taking the lead in the battle against childhood obesity in a place where it can have a major impact: the schools. PCRM has placed ads around the Washington, D.C., area asking parents, teachers, students, and administrators to help improve the healthfulness of lunches at their schools.

About 18 percent of all children ages 6 to 19 are obese, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, and a study in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity projects that nearly half of children in North America will be overweight by 2010. More children than ever are at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases associated with overweight and obesity. Since lifelong eating habits are often formed in childhood, schools can play a major role in positively influencing children’s eating habits both at school and at home.

Menus in most school lunch programs are too high in saturated fat and cholesterol and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Serving more vegetarian meals is an easy way for schools to promote good health and improve the eating habits of their students. Vegetarian meals tend to be lower in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol and higher in fiber than common school lunch entrées, such as chicken nuggets, burgers, and cheese pizza.

The ads, which were placed on buses and in Metro rail stations, call on concerned people to let PCRM help them introduce healthier options in their school lunch programs by working directly with school administrators and food service directors. PCRM will provide resources for these meetings, including statistics on childhood obesity, information about the National School Lunch Program dietary guidelines, and where to find menu ideas and recipes.

If you live in the Washington, D.C., metro area and would like to see healthier school lunches in your community, please fill out this form.