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An Open Letter to TX Ag Commissioner, Todd Staples

Posted by on September 9, 2014

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.

Best regards,

Kay, an average Texas mother who tries hard to ensure her child eats healthfully.

7 Responses to An Open Letter to TX Ag Commissioner, Todd Staples

  1. Elizabeth Page

    Fabulous letter – focus on the real issues – a rally cry that all Texas politicians need to heed. Thanks for writing and sending it – I hope it is also submitted as a Letter to the Editor at the Statesman and other newspapers.

  2. Star Traci

    Well said! I am not a vegetarian but I feel that supporting local produce and dairy with the same force as he does the beef industry has value to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. One of the reasons people eat poorly is that healthy alternatives are more expensive. Let’s make milk and fruit & vegetables as affordable as fast food and sodas. Let’s teach our children that there is a vast variety of healthy options and help them explores (and this is coming from a mom of two terrible eaters!)
    I applaud you, Kay. I hope he sees this article and give it the respect that it deserves.

  3. elizabeth @LocalSavour

    Well said, Kay! Thank you for sharing and I hope he takes you up on that challenge.

  4. Kay Marley-Dilworth

    Thanks, everyone! After reading his opinion piece yesterday I was angry, and I wanted to channel that emotion into something useful. I doubt this will be published as a letter to the editor, as they have a 1,000 character limit. Maybe, just maybe, it will actually be read by Todd Staples. *In the interest of full disclosure, I try to eat vegetarian a majority of the week, for my own personal health. As a Latina with a horrible family history of diabetes and other health issues, I had my own health scare last year when my internist strongly suggested going on cholesterol medication to lower my skyrocketing figures. After three months of eating vegetarian meals for five days out of seven, I lowered my bad cholesterol by 57 points, and increased my good cholesterol. I also lost a significant amount of weight, with more to go in order to be in normal ranges for a woman of my height. I am a barbecue lovin’ Texan, but I see the true value of a well balanced, healthy diet that includes meatless meals.*

  5. lisa

    Great letter! I am a vegetarian & I constantly get asked about nutrition. I always want to express how much healthier I am and how much better my skin is than theirs! I am always amazed at how much meat eaters want to judge vegetarians or vegans. Thank you for writing this letter. Lots of love, Lisa Coming by from Austin Bloggers on FB.

  6. Kay Marley-Dilworth

    Thanks, Lisa! I have to add that my rosacea is much, much better with a primarily vegetarian diet. I do eat animal proteins like beef, chicken and pork several times a week, but if I have more carnivore meals than that, my cheeks start to grow ruddy again. Friends tell me that my skin looks its best in years. Oh, and my vegetarian meals include eggs and dairy — I’m not Vegan.

  7. Skye

    You’d think he was the beef commissioner, not the ag commissioner. Agriculture is so diverse!