Civil Rights and Health Care Groups Ask USDA to Address ‘Dietary Racism’ in National School Lunch Programs

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Twenty-eight civil rights and health care groups announced Tuesday they have requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) address “dietary racism” in national school lunch programs, raising concerns to the federal agency about forcing millions of minority children to drink cow’s milk without allowing them a healthier alternative.

In a letter to the USDA’s Equity Commission, the groups said the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) only incentivizes dairy milk, a policy they called “inherently inequitable and socially unjust” because children of color are more likely to be lactose intolerant — meaning they cannot fully digest sugars in dairy and can suffer from adverse effects after consumption.

The NSLP covers 30 million children in 100,000 schools across the U.S., a program the civil rights groups said children of color are historically overrepresented in.

“If Black lives matter, so does our health and nutrition, but the National School Lunch Program has consistently failed children of color,” said Milton Mills, a Washington, D.C., urgent care physician who has researched the topic, in a statement. “Either schoolchildren drink the milk they’re given and suffer in class while they’re trying to learn, or they go without a nutritionally significant portion of their meal.”

The letter was signed by leading national groups such as Progressive Democrats of America, the Maryland chapter of the NAACP, Switch4Good, the Center for a Humane Economy and the National Action Network Washington Bureau, which was founded by civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton.

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SOURCE: The Hill, Brad Dress