Billie Eilish momentarily stepped away from her Happier Than Ever world tour to petition Capitol Hill, advocating for children nationwide to receive better access to healthy vegan meals. The superstar voiced her support of the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act (H.R.4108) in an effort to bring attention to the urgent need to prioritize healthy eating for younger generations. The proposed legislation aims to make plant-based entrees accessible to students nationwide by motivating school districts to introduce plant-based meal options.
“I’m proud to advocate for this legislation that will help to fight climate change, combat food insecurity, and promote health equity,” Eilish said in a statement.
Eilish’s support brings the relatively new bill into the foreground of the plant-based conversation. The legislation was introduced by Representative Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) in June 2021. The new bill will implement grant programs that will motivate national school districts to introduce plant-forward meal options for students at affordable prices. The plan will allow school children early access to healthier food that can otherwise be inaccessible.
“Every child deserves healthy, nutritious, and sustainable meals that respect their choice,” Representative Velázquez said in a statement. “The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act will invest in the health of our children and help combat climate change by funding plant-based entrées in schools across the country. I’m proud to champion legislation that would deliver food justice for all and build a greener, healthier future for our kids.”
Alongside Eilish and the New York Representatives, several other activists took to Capitol Hill to promote the plant-based plan. Among the activists, Maggie Baird – Eilish’s mother and founder of social justice non-profit Support + Feed – announced her support for the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act. Baird’s organization has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing businesses, frontline workers, and people experiencing food insecurity with healthy plant-based meals.
“Providing nourishing, plant-based school meals is crucial to improving the health of our kids and protecting the planet that they will inherit from us,” Baird said in a statement. “With climate catastrophe looming and racial health disparities worsening, Congress must prioritize passing the Healthy Future Students and Earth Act.”
The Healthy Future Students and Earth Act will close the financial gap that prevents most school districts from implementing any similar plant-based plans. The proposed legislation will simultaneously reduce food insecurity, fight climate change, and improve student health and eating habits. Current figures estimate more than 14 million children live in food-insecure situations.
“The Healthy Future Students and Earth Pilot Program Act presents a quadruple win for student choice, racial equity, student health, and the environment,” Senior Program Manager at Friends of the Earth U.S. Chloe Waterman, who moderated the Capitol Hill briefing, said in a statement. “We are grateful to Billie Eilish and Maggie Baird for using their platform to advocate for an equitable, plant-forward school meal program and to Representatives Bowman and Velázquez for their leadership on this important issue.”
New York Public Schools Go Vegan
Earlier this month, New York City’s public school system kicked off a “Vegan Fridays” program that will provide plant-based meals to students. The new plant-based program promises to provide all 1 million students enrolled in NYC public schools access to healthy, plant-based meal options. The program intends to curb the limited access to nutritional food options in several NYC communities.
The Capitol Hill briefing closely follows the successful rollout of the Vegan Fridays campaign. Within NYC, several activists and community leaders shared their support for the federal vegan lunch program including the executive director of Chilis on Wheels Eloisa Trinidad.
“We must continue to right the historical wrongs of colonization which have led to great disparities in health, food security, and environmental justice, most of which is felt by Black, Indigenous, and students of the Global Majority,” Trinidad said. “Any student going hungry throughout their school day because the food offered is either not culturally appropriate or doesn’t meet their other needs is unacceptable. Providing proper sustenance through school food is one of the ways in which we can give every student an early chance to succeed.”
Similar to the NYC program, the proposed legislation hopes to help communities of color get improved access to nutritional and healthy foods that remain otherwise limited. The NYC Department of Education announced that it was committed to the health and well-being of every child within the school system. Now, the federal program will extend this campaign to the national level.
“There is a huge rise in youth wanting to eat more plant-based options either for the animals, their health, the planet, or for all of these reasons,” the 14-year-old Founder of Youth Climate Save, Genesis Butler, said in a statement. “Many are unable to do so though because they do not have access to plant-based meals. Since youth spend much of their time at school, it only makes sense for schools to provide plant-based meals.”
Eilish’s Vegan Happier Than Ever Tour
Eilish is currently performing the East Coast portion of her Happier Than Ever tour. Besides being one of the most anticipated tours of the year, Support + Feed and the vegan brand Wicked Kitchen have joined to make the tour an international vegan campaign. The campaign is asking Eilish’s fans to take “THE PLEDGE” – a promise to eat one plant-based meal a day for 30 days. Wicked Kitchen will be providing 100,000 vegan meals to help people start eating plant-based during the tour.
The eco-friendly, sustainable tour will also host an eco-village for four rotating non-profits alongside Support + Feed. The Eco Village will help promote local communities and plant-based sustainability efforts. Fans can also purchase a Charity Platinum ticket for the concert that will donate the entire cost of the ticket to Support + Feed to help people in need across 29 states.
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