|5-8-15 Education Issues in the News|
Star Ledger - Christie nixes bill to give N.J. students more say in lunch menus
TRENTON — Saying it would "burden hundreds of school districts in New Jersey," Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday vetoed legislation that would require schools to take students' cultural food preferences into account when planning cafeteria menus.
The bill (A3360) would have required middle and high schools to issue forms on which students could indicate food preferences and concerns.
If students indicated the need for change — and it was not "de minimis in nature" — the schools would have been required to set up advisory committees that would recommend school breakfast and lunch dishes that would "better reflect the cultural food preferences of the student body."
The committees — made up of school administrators, kitchen staff and students — would have been tasked with recommending menu changes. Their opinions were not to be binding.
"In light of the many challenges school districts already encounter in order to provide an education worthy of our children's future, I cannot support the additional costs and burdens this bill would impose," Christie wrote in his veto message. "Instead, local school officials should be encouraged to work constructively with students and parents to offer meal options that reflect their students' dietary preferences. In the event students and parents are dissatisfied with the responsiveness of school officials, they can raise their concerns to the local board of education or elected officials."
The bill was pushed for by lobbyist Madeline Ferraro and her daughter, Brooke, who had asked her high school to consider vegetarian options.
"They told my daughter she could eat a fruit cup and chips for lunch. That was their offer to her," Ferraro said in September. "They weren't mean. There was no malicious intent. But they were not able to understand what the heck vegetarianism, let alone veganism, was."
NJ Spotlight - Fine Print: Christie Vetoes Adding Vegetarian Options to School Lunches…Governor says he supports concept but legislation would bring extra costs and burdens to school districts
John Mooney | May 8, 2015
What is it: Gov. Chris Christie yesterday vetoed a bill -- approved overwhelmingly in both the Senate and Assembly -- that would have required middle schools and high schools to create advisory committees to help develop alternate menus for school lunch, including options for vegetarian or vegan students.
What it means: The final bill in itself was a compromise measure to provide, at minimum, for an advisory committee to seek student input, and it had widespread and bipartisan support. That apparently wasn’t enough, although Christie stressed he wasn’t against the intent, just the means.
What Christie said: “While school districts should endeavor to provide nutritious meal options that their students prefer, the bill would unnecessarily burden hundreds of school districts in New Jersey. The burden includes the creation, distribution, and review of food surveys to every student enrolled in a middle school or high school and the formation of an eleven-member food advisory committee if even one student in the entire district expresses any displeasure.”
Sponsor’s intent: The bill was spearheaded by state Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), who said one of her friend’s daughters had faced ridicule in her school lunch line when asking for vegan meals.
“We are seeing more and more students who are growing up vegan or vegetarian,” Lampitt told NJ Spotlight last fall. “We are just asking schools to look at the menus and how to adapt them for these children.”
Personal experience: In her day job, Lampitt oversees food services for the University of Pennsylvania.
Not universally backed: As it traveled through the Assembly, the bill drew the scrutiny of school district lobbyists and advocates who questioned whether the requirements were too onerous.
Passed overwhelmingly: The bill still passed the Assembly 58-16, and the Senate 34-5. The Legislature’s leadership gave no indication yesterday as to whether it would seek an override.
Final word, for now: “In light of the many challenges school districts already encounter in order to provide an education worthy of our children’s future, I cannot support the additional costs and burdens this bill would impose,” Christie wrote in his veto.
“Instead, local school officials should be encouraged to work constructively with students and parents to offer meal options that reflect their students’ dietary preferences. In the event students and parents are dissatisfied with the responsiveness of school officials, they can raise their concerns to the local board of education or elected officials.”
Garden State Coalition of Schools