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WASHINGTON (PRNewswire)--A medical group has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to broaden the federally funded school lunch program to include soymilk because many students, particularly minorities, have difficulty digesting cow's milk and other dairy products.
The request was made by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and follows similar recommendations made earlier this year to the Agriculture Department by parents, university professors, nutritionists, school dietitians, and others.
The Agriculture Department, which administers federal funding for the subsidized school lunch program, so far has not changed its policy limiting milk to cow's milk, although soyburgers and other soy products have been included in the school program. But the department has indicated it continues to study public comments on the soymilk question.
While the department can make suggestions for policy changes, Congress must amend the subsidized menu if soymilk is to be permitted. Child nutrition programs are expected to come before Congress in 2003.
Currently, only students who present a note from a doctor saying they need soymilk can qualify for the federal aid. The Agriculture Department is charged with reimbursing school districts in such cases.
Consumption of soymilk has risen sharply throughout the U.S. in recent years. Sales in 2001 were estimated at near $550 million, compared to only $l.5 million in l980.
Two years ago, the Agriculture Department approved a rule change that allowed soy products to be used fully in school lunch programs, replacing hamburgers and other fatty foods. Previously, soy was used in school lunches only as an additive.