Davis School District Earns A "C+"
On August 14th, 2007, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, an advocacy group that appears respectable and balanced on the surface, issued a press release describing the results of their analysis of the elementary school meals available at 22 of the largest school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program. They refer to their findings as the national School Lunch Report Card, and gave the Jordan School District a letter grade of "F". They were a bit fairer with the Davis School District, giving them a "C+". The Deseret Morning News has published a story on this survey.
But as one reads the PCRM's press release, the tip of an agenda begins to wriggle its way to the surface. Read the applicable part and see if you can spot their "agenda":
...The national School Lunch Report Card, issued today by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, reveals a surprising divide between school districts. PCRM dietitians analyzed the elementary school meals available at 22 of the largest districts participating in the National School Lunch Program.
“If your family lives in San Diego; Fairfax, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; or Pinellas County, Fla., your child will find healthy vegetarian options most days of the week,” says PCRM dietitian Dulcie Ward, R.D. “But if your home is in Atlanta; St. Louis; Omaha, Neb.; or Anchorage, Alaska, your child may have a tough time finding healthy food. The federal government spent more than $8 billion on the National School Lunch Program last year, but many taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth.” More than 30 million children participate in the program.
Despite the ever-worsening childhood obesity epidemic, PCRM’s review shows that many menus are still packed with such unhealthy options as foot-long hot dogs and “Colossal Burgers” and are short on nutritious vegetarian dishes. On a positive note, a growing number of districts are offering soy milk, calcium-enriched juices, and bottled water as alternatives to dairy milk. Cow’s milk is the leading source of saturated fat in children’s diets.
Notice how many times the word "vegetarian" appears? Notice how they promote soy milk and issue a blanket condemnation of cow's milk? Let's go to their "report card".
2007 School Lunch Report Card
- Pinellas County Schools (Florida): Score 94, Grade A
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (North Carolina): Score 92, Grade A-
- Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia): Score 92, Grade A-
- San Diego Unified School District (California): Score 92, Grade A-
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Florida): Score 89, Grade B+
- Montgomery County Public Schools (Maryland): Score 87, Grade B+
- Oakland Unified School District (California): Score 84, Grade B
- Sacramento City Unified School District (California): Score 84, Grade B
- Volusia County Schools (Florida): Score 84, Grade B
- DeKalb County Schools (Georgia): Score 80, Grade B-
- Capistrano Unified School District (California): Score 79, Grade C+
- Davis School District (Utah): Score 77, Grade C+
- Santa Ana Unified School District (California): Score 75, Grade C
- Milwaukee Public Schools (Wisconsin): Score 72, Grade C-
- Orange County Public Schools (Florida): Score 67, Grade D+
- Atlanta Public Schools (Georgia): Score 67, Grade D+
- Omaha Public Schools (Nebraska): Score 66, Grade D
- Anchorage School District (Alaska): Score 60, Grade F
- Hancock County Schools (West Virginia): Score 59, Grade F
- Ysleta Independent School District (Texas): Score 58, Grade F
- Jordan County School District (Utah): Score 56, Grade F
- St. Louis Public Schools (Missouri): Score 53, Grade F
According to the Deseret Morning News report, schools were graded on obesity and chronic disease prevention, health promotion and nutrition adequacy and nutrition initiatives. High-scoring schools offered more plant-based entrees, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, served nondairy beverages and provided nutritional education in the cafeteria. However, PCRM doesn't make their full report available on their website. For a copy of the full report, or an interview with a PCRM nutrition expert, please contact Ms. Simon Chaitowitz at 202-686-2210, ext. 309, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I'm sure that Marilyn Clayton, the Jordan District's nutrition director, will want to do that. She questions the report's accuracy - she says elementary schools do not serve a foot-long hot dog or the colossal burger, as the report states — and says the district deserves a B grade or better.
According to Clayton, Jordan reportedly offers vegan or vegetarian entrees by special request only and just one entree choice a day (Clayton says they actually offer two — Tuesday, it was lasagna or taco salad, with a shell that is not fried). The district offers a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, but no milk alternatives, nor does it offer "nutrition education".
Clayton stands by the district's meals, which undergo a nutritional analysis for vitamins A and C, protein and calcium and follow USDA guidelines, which she says are adequate for growing children. However, the district is not resting on its laurels - it's also hired a dietitian
While Assistant Superintendent Paul Waite of the Davis School District acknowledges the need to strive for further improvement, he said he is very pleased with the direction the district is going in terms of nutrition.
Davis does offer nutrition education, taught by dietetic interns in about 150 classrooms, the report states. But there are few incentives for students to make "smart menu choices" and according to the report, only one Davis school has a school garden. The district does offer vegetarian options on a rotating basis but most are cheese-based and high in fat and cholesterol. The report said the district could improve by adding more low-fat options as well as more nondairy options.
"I'm confident that we will see significant improvements once our wellness policy is fully incorporated ... but I'm quite pleased and proud in what we are doing in making sure our kids are healthy," Waite said.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine bills itself as a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition. PCRM also conducts clinical research studies, opposes unethical human experimentation, and promotes alternatives to animal research.
Commendable goals on the surface. However, the repeated use of extremist buzzwords like "vegetarian" as well as use of phrases like "alternatives to animal research" started tripping a few red flags. My "Agenda Alert" klaxon starting buzzing!!!
And that "Agenda Alert" klaxon started squawking at full volume when I did a Google search and found two websites ON THE FIRST GOOGLE PAGE that exposed the PCRM as an animal-rights extremist organization hiding behind a medical smock. The Physician Scam website names seven problems with PCRM:
1). PCRM is an animal rights group. Less than 4 percent of its members are actual physicians. The group's goals are to stop medical research that requires the use of animals, and to remove meat and dairy foods from our diet by demonizing them as "unhealthy." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has already steered more than $1.3 million to PCRM. Animal People News notes that PETA and PCRM are so closely connected that they should be considered "a single fundraising unit."
2). When longtime PCRM spokesperson Dr. Jerry Vlasak addressed the "Animal Rights 2003" convention, he openly endorsed the murder of doctors who use animals in their research. "I don't think you'd have to kill---assassinate---too many," Vlasak told the assembled activists. "I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives."
3). PCRM president Neal Barnard is not a nutritionist, a dietician, or a biochemist. He's a non-practicing psychiatrist who claims that cheese is "dairy crack" and "morphine on a cracker." Barnard has also been PETA's "medical advisor" and president of The PETA Foundation.
4). In the past, the American Medical Association (AMA) has called PCRM a "fringe organization" that uses "unethical tactics" and is "interested in perverting medical science." When he was the AMA's Vice President for Scientific Affairs, Dr. Jerod M. Loeb wrote that PCRM was "officially censured" by the AMA. That AMA statement also condemned PCRM for supporting "a campaign of misinformation against important animal research of AIDS."
5). According to Newsweek , PCRM president Neal Barnard co-signed intimidating letters (on PCRM letterhead) in 2001 with Kevin Kjonaas, then the leader of a violent animal rights group described by the U.S. Department of Justice as a "domestic terrorism threat." The letters demanded that companies in 32 states and 8 foreign countries stop doing business with a biomedical research laboratory that uses animals in a small portion of its work. In march 2006, Kjonaas was convicted of domestic terrorism in federal courts. [Ed. Note: The violent animal rights group in question was Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which is still active. Kjonaas was also the official spokesman of the equally-violent Animal Liberation Front.]
6). PCRM gained a high public profile in 2004 by sponsoring a lawsuit against the late Dr. Robert Atkins (whose low-carbohydrate diet typically includes meat and dairy foods, two big animal-rights no-nos). PCRM has run newspaper ads looking for disgruntled low-carb dieters willing to sue their own physicians for prescribing the Atkins plan. PCRM also unethically leaked Dr. Atkins's private coroner's report to The Wall Street Journal.
7). PCRM discourages Americans from making donations to health charities like the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the American Red Cross, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation---solely because they support disease research that requires the use of animals.
The second critical website, ActivistCash.com, offers a host of additional details one can read at one's leisure. They discuss how PCRM has employed "Chicken Little" tactics to scare people away from meat and dairy, how they've participated in fast-food lawsuits, and explore the PCRM-PETA connection.
Because of PCRM's incestuous relationships with several animal-rights groups and their own indigenous extremism, both these school districts are correct in discounting this. Both the Jordan District and the Davis District display a continuing and proactive concern about nutrition. Parents of students in these districts have little need to be concerned about this PCRM "report card"; it's clearly pessimistic.