School lunch standards from 2010 need to be updated due to food preservatives

To the editor:

I am an eighth grade student in the Pelham Middle School and am writing to inform the community about the need to urge our representatives to update the school lunch standards

The last time standards were updated was in 2010, with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was intended to combat obesity. Today, there is a new health issue that we should be concerned about, and that is preservatives in our food. A 2015 Stanford study by Dr. Jennifer Hartle found that levels of BPA in school lunches were unsafe. BPA causes endocrine hormone disruption, which kids are really susceptible to and which interferes with their growth and development. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics made a policy statement about the dangers of food additives and children’s health, expressing concern and urging the Food and Drug Administration to adopt new standards for food safety. Dr. Claire McCarthy explained how these additives and chemicals are harmful to children in her 2018 article in a Harvard health publication that warned that plastic packaging and dry food packaging contain harmful chemicals such as PFCs, which interfere with the immune system and thyroid function, percholate, which disrupts brain development; artificial colors, which can cause ADHD, and nitrates, which increase the risk of cancer.

Given the discovery of the dangers of these chemicals and warnings about them from public health officials, it’s time to call for an update to our school lunch standards to reflect this new data and protect children by eliminating harmful food additives and preservatives from our school lunches. I have written to U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel about this issue, as well as Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, and I urge you to do the same.

Julian Knapp

159 Corlies Avenue