Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine's Specific Nutritional Report Card On The Anchorage School District

When I previously discussed the Physicians Committee for Reponsible Medicine's (PCRN) letter grade of "F" on nutrition for the Anchorage School District, I was not aware that they had posted specific district report cards on a different site. Today, I learned that this specific information has been posted on the website.

Here's the specific report card for the Anchorage School District (after clicking the link, scroll about 3/4ths of the way down):

Anchorage School District: F
State: Alaska
Not graded in 2006

Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention: 40 out of 50 possible points

Health Promotion and Nutrition Adequacy: 14 out of 35 possible points

Nutrition Initiatives: 6 out of 15 possible points

TOTAL: 60 points

Located in Alaska, the Anchorage School District serves a diverse population of approximately 50,000 students.

Although vegetarian options are served each Monday and vegan items are available upon request, there is little promotion of these plant-based entrées and their benefits. They are not included, or highlighted, on the menu and there is no educational information about them.

Anchorage could raise its score by adding some of these healthful items to its regular menu. Typical menu items include cinnamon-glazed toast with turkey sausage, mini-corn dogs, and a baked chicken sandwich.

When fresh fruits are not available, food service staff substitute canned fruit or sugar-free juice. Low-fat and fresh vegetables sides are available most days of the week, but tater tots, baked French fries, and potato coins appear regularly.

Some nutrition education is offered through cooking classes, and the food service department is willing to speak to any classrooms that request a presentation.

It's obvious the letter grade of "F" is completely bogus. The PCRN cult obviously are not satisfied with the fact that the district merely offers the choices then allows students to decide; they demand that ASD aggressively push the PCRN agenda. Furthermore, a vegan diet is not mainstream and will not generate the same interest as other more standard diets; why should ASD actively promote a "cult" diet? PCRN is overtly biased against meat and dairy, therefore, to get a passing grade, any school district would be required to reflect that bias. The Anchorage School District should not waste any time reponding to PCRN's concerns.

Here is an abridged description of PCRN's grading criteria:

Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention: 50 points. This category consists of two components: First, do districts meet, at minimum, the USDA requirements that over a five-day period, meals average no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and no more than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat? Second, how available are healthful low-fat, zero-cholesterol entrées?

School districts were awarded the most points when a variety of these dishes were available as “featured” entrées, meaning they were included on the lunch menu so students did not have to make a special request.

Numerous studies have spotlighted the benefits of nutrients found exclusively in plant foods and substantiated the health risks of cholesterol and fat. Therefore, it is especially important that schools provide plant-based entrées that are low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Most vegan entrées are naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free. When offered to children on a regular basis, these foods will help children develop good eating habits that will, in turn, help them maintain an appropriate weight and, in the long run, prevent chronic disease.

Health Promotion and Nutrition Adequacy: 35 points. In addition to focusing on the relationship between nutrition and disease, the report card evaluates whether meal patterns meet nutrient needs and provide dietary options that encourage good health. To that end, the Health Promotion and Nutrition Adequacy category specifically measures whether the foods offered in elementary school lunches provide essential nutrients and fiber.

Each school district was rated on the availability of daily low-fat vegetable side dishes, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit. This category also includes extra points for school districts that offer a nondairy beverage as an alternative to the dairy milk that all are required to serve, with few exceptions. These components are fundamental to a balanced and nutrient-sufficient meal pattern.

Nutrition Initiatives: 15 points. To be most effective at changing children’s eating habits, school districts must not only serve healthful food but teach children about better nutrition and smart eating habits. This category includes three subcategories:

Labeling of healthful plant-based options: School districts receive points for promoting plant-based foods by labeling these items on their menus. They receive additional points if they have an incentive program that rewards children for choosing these wholesome lunch options.

Innovative Programs: School districts receive points for maintaining gardens, salad bars, farm-to-school programs, or other innovative programs that not only encourage healthful eating but engage children in the food growing and preparation process.

Nutrition Education: Education is critical to establishing good nutrition habits. Therefore, districts receive additional points for including nutrition messages on their menus, presenting nutrition classes taught by dietitians or food service staff, and developing other creative means of nutrition education. Districts also receive additional points for including information about plant-based diets on their menus or Web sites.

Neither the Anchorage School District nor the local media have reacted to this report yet. Apparently they've picked up on the cult agenda of this group and choose not to dignify their "report card" with a response. Can't say I blame them. If it wasn't for PCRM's flagrant bias against meat and dairy, they might be more credible. Crimeny, we've been eating meat and drinking milk for 6,000 years of recorded human history, and now they're suddenly "bad" for us? Give me a break!

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