ADD SOY Act provides school children with a dairy-free option that doesn’t make them sick

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would eliminate $300 million wasted tax money while providing a nutritious alternative for millions of kids made sick by dairy milk served in the National School Lunch Program.   

IRVINE (27 JULY 2023): When Switch4Good executive director Dotsie Bausch learned that a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study revealed that 29% of the cartons of milk served as part of the National School Lunch Program ((NSLP) are thrown in the garbage, effectively tossing $300 million in tax dollars into the trash each year, it didn’t sit right with her. Cow’s milk doesn’t sit right with two-thirds of the human population in the form of lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, which means that a significant portion of the 30 million American children who receive meals as part of NSLP are suffering the consequences – either from an adverse reaction to drinking milk or by missing out on important nutrition after discarding the milk. Presently, there is no dairy-free milk option available for kids in the NSLP, which inspired the ADD SOY Act (Addressing Digestive Distress in Stomachs of Our Youth), a bipartisan bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Troy Carter (D-LA) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) as H.R. 1619

Bausch was in Washington this week to meet with representatives in the effort to get the ADD SOY Act added as an amendment to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. Joining her was eighteen-year-old Marielle Williamson, who sued the USDA and the Los Angeles Unified School District last May for violating her rights, forcing her to praise dairy cow’s milk in addition to the literature she was distributing to students at her high school about dairy-free milk alternatives. 

In their 2020 guidelines, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recognized fortified soy milk as a nutritional equivalent to dairy cow milk thus making it available as an option in the NSLP seemed like an ideal solution to Bausch. Schools are not currently reimbursed if they provide soy milk as an option, yet the USDA is reimbursing public schools for cow’s milk to the tune of $1 billion annually – even though they know that $300 million dollars of milk is being dumped directly into the trash by the children. A 2015 study revealed that an astonishing 73% of U.S. diary income came from government programs like the NSLP. 

The placement of milk on students’ lunch trays dates back to 1946 when the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act was signed into law. The end of the second world war left America with an overabundance of supplies, including milk. President Harry S. Truman directed that the milk be sent to schools. The NSLP provides 47% of the daily caloric intake of the children in the program. Throwing out the milk, estimated at 45 million gallons per year, means the kids are missing a sizable portion of their daily nutrition. 

Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down the lactose (milk sugar) in cow’s milk into simpler sugars for absorption into the bloodstream, resulting in undigested lactose remaining in the gastrointestinal tract. This may cause diarrhea, nausea, cramping, bloating and even vomiting. Cow’s milk is the most common food allergen that impacts infants and young children. Symptoms include rashes, hives, wheezing, vomiting and anaphylaxis. In fact, dairy milk has become the leading cause of food allergen death. Long-term effects of lactose intolerance include compromised immune systems, respiratory, gastrointestinal and skin problems. These debilitating symptoms have a profound negative impact on kids’ ability to concentrate and focus on their school lessons.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of all people have a decreased ability to digest lactose after infancy. Research shows that up to 80% of Black and Latin Americans, more than 80% of Native Americans, and up to 95% of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. Thus, placing a carton of milk on breakfast and lunch trays for children participating in the NSLP, which is the requirement for those meals to be reimbursed by the USDA, is a mandate that unfairly impacts a higher percentage of BIPOC children. 

“When you sit in the classroom wheezing, coughing and your stomach is cramping, it makes concentrating on your studies nearly impossible. Cow’s milk could very well be the reason there is a learning gap between black and white children,” said Dr. Milton Mills, a critical care physician who practices in Washington, DC.

“With a larger portion of those participating in the National School Lunch Program being children of color, putting cartons of milk on their trays is a form of racism – dietary racism. It is systemic, structural inequities surrounding food and nutrition that disproportionately impacts people of color. We know that cow’s milk is making our children sick and not providing an option is unjust and unconscionable. The fact that so many kids are throwing out those unopened milk cartons is an enormous waste of taxpayer money,” said Bausch. 

Key bipartisan support for the ADD SOY Act in the Senate will be announced soon. Prior to introducing the bill, thirty-one members of Congress wrote to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack to address the dairy industry monopoly in the National School Lunch Program. The letter specifically asks that soy milk be made an available alternative to cow’s milk. However, Vilsack, who is deeply entrenched in the dairy lobby money train having been CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council between his agriculture secretary appointments for the Obama and Biden administrations, ignored the request of Congress. Subsequently, a letter was sent to the White House Equity Commission from multiple civil rights, social justice and health organizations, including the National Urban League, which called on the USDA to end dietary racism. This letter was also ignored by the Commission. 

“This summer is crucial for ADD SOY. We need people to write or call their representatives, asking them to support the act. If thousands of their constituents call or write, they have no choice but to pay attention and get onboard. Getting as many signatures as possible is our top priority. It’s an absolute must. We need people to put pressure on Congress to pass the ADD SOY Act in order to stop this government waste and right this wrong that is hurting our children,” said Bausch. 

The Switch4Good website has a form letter readily available that can quickly and easily be sent to the signer’s jurisdictional representatives. Access it HERE.

Williamson told the Washington Post that “People don’t really like to drink cow’s milk anymore, and they have other sources of dairy.” 

The ADD SOY Act will make an alternative source available to our nation’s school children.

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Switch4Good is an evidence-based nonprofit that passionately advocates for a dairy-free world. Founded in 2018 by Olympic silver medal-winning track cyclist Dotsie Bausch, Switch4Good’s mission is to combat the distortion and disrupt the misinformation fed to us by the dairy industry. For more information, please visit www.switch4good.org.

The Center for a Humane Economy is the first animal welfare nonprofit that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The Washington, DC-based organization is led by Wayne Pacelle, who successfully shepherded legislative change on behalf of animals and human health issues on the local, state and federal levels hundreds of times. Additional information is available at https://centerforahumaneeconomy.org

Contact: Rick Scott 310.714.0248

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