Dear Mr. Staples,
In your opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman, you state that you believe Meatless Monday is a “carefully orchestrated campaign” to turn us all into full time vegetarians. You believes meat, specifically beef, is “a critical part of a balanced diet.” Austin has a large vegetarian and Vegan population, yet our health department hasn’t issued any warnings of vast numbers of veggie-lovers dying of malnutrition. As for agendas, why isn’t aren’t you supporting our Texas produce farmers instead of creating hysteria over a non-issue? A better way of dealing with your obvious lack of enthusiasm for vegetarian meals is simply to tell the Texans (including school districts) who choose Meatless Monday as a healthy eating option this: Buy local produce.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of nutrition knows you can obtain protein from sources other than meat, and achieve a balanced, healthy diet. If you don’t quite understand how, do some research. Or visit the vegetarian diet section of nutrition.gov, which is partially funded through the United States Department of Agriculture and contains guidelines for healthful vegetarian eating habits. Your blatant ignorance of vegetarianism, and conspiracy theorist paranoia paint an unflattering picture of a politician with his own agenda: continuing the flow of money from the beef & ranching industry into your campaign coffers. I suppose alienating Texas fruit and vegetable farmers, and dairy producers is okay, as they must not contribute as large of an amount to your re-election.
We’re facing a crisis in Texas in the form of both childhood obesity, and childhood hunger. We need to be more mindful about our food, and making healthy choices. Why aren’t you focusing on the fact that low income Texans are struggling to feed their families nutritional meals? We have 1.9 million Texan children who are food insecure. You should be outraged that low quality foods with little nutritive content is cheap while healthy, nutritionally-dense foods are often costly. You should be using the power of your office to educate Texans on balanced diets, whether those are vegetarian, Vegan, or an across-the-board omnivore. Mr. Staples, you should be channeling righteous anger into the fact that Texas children often are fed inferior food products because their parents and some school systems cannot afford better. Attacking a school district for replacing one day’s meal choices with healthy, nutritive vegetarian options is not righteous.
If you truly want to influence Texans toward more healthful eating, please increase support for buying local produce and dairy products for that one meatless meal a week, and Texas beef, poultry, lamb, pork and other meats for other meals. Use the power of your office to encourage Texans to buy more locally raised foods. Talk to school systems about where they source their meats, and offer some type of benefit if they change from an out-of-state supplier to a Texas one. Surely something like printed food & nutrition educational materials are readily available within the Department of Agriculture? Give those to schools who make the switch.
I’d encourage you to start a dialogue with the organic ranching and farming industry in our state, to learn what your office can do to help their products become more affordable. And why aren’t you shouting from the rooftops how farmers’ markets in our capital city participate in SNAP, WIC and Double Dollar Incentive Programs?
The issue, Mr. Staples, isn’t an agenda to deprive anyone of protein, or meat, especially not on a full-time basis. The problem is not school districts espousing one vegetarian lunch out of five. The heart of the matter is that we need to teach our children to eat healthier, and to exercise more. You can influence that, Mr. Staples. You can facilitate change for the better, in so many growing children. I challenge you to meet with a panel of Registered Dieticians, Registered Dietician Nutritionists, pediatricians, and members of the Texas Department of Health’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Prevention (NPAOP) program and learn more about healthful eating, and healthy lifestyles for our Texas school children.
Kay, an average Texas mother who tries hard to ensure her child eats healthfully.