Christie sticks fork in vegetarian bill

Courier Post
May 8, 2015
Jim Walsh
Link to original

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Thursday that would have required school districts to consider "culturally sensitive" menu choices for students, including vegetarian fare.

Advocates said the measure, overwhelming approved by the Legislature, would benefit students whose diets reflect religious or cultural restrictions. Among other provisions, it would have require districts to make "all reasonable efforts" to offer hot and cold vegetarian and vegan choices if requested by a student.

But Christie said the measure "would unnecessarily burden" more than 500 school districts across the state.

In a veto message Thursday, he noted the bill would require districts to conduct "food surveys" of middle- and high-school students, and to form an advisory committee if any student indicates an "unmet food preference."

"In light of the many challenges school districts already encounter in order to provide an education worthy of our children's future, I cannot support the additional costs and burdens this bill would impose," Christie said in the statement.

He said parents or students unhappy with cafeteria food could "raise their concerns to the local board of education or elected officials."

The bill won approval by votes of 58-16 in the Assembly and 34-5 in the Senate.

"I'm just flabbergasted," said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Cherry Hill, one of three South Jersey legislators to sponsor the bill. "Who can be so short-sighted about the long-term gains of providing healthy food options and giving kids food to fuel their minds?"

Lampitt said the bill was written with input from associations representing school boards, school nurses, principals and other staffers. The bill would have allowed a superintendent to suspend its requirements if a small group's preferences could be satisfied without an advisory committee.

"We need to be focused about the diversity of cultures in our school systems," Lampitt said Friday. "What we want for our children is for school systems to be inclusive."

Other sponsors included Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester Township, and state Sen. Diane Allen, R- Edgewater Park. They could not be reached for comment.

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