Enjoy Life(R) Foods CEO Presents Comments to USDA on National School Lunch Program
At the invitation of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Scott Mandell, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Enjoy Life Foods, the country’s leading manufacturer of allergy-friendly and gluten-free foods, provided comments on the National School Lunch Program saying that children with special dietary needs due to Celiac Disease, food allergies and other health concerns are not accommodated under the current program.
Today’s meeting, held by the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA, was a Request for Public Comments for Use in Preparing for 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, which includes the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program; and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which support nutritious meals and snacks served to children in schools, child care institutions and afterschool care programs.
Speaking on behalf of the American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) and Enjoy Life Foods, Mandell said, “On behalf of the children, their parents and caregivers that are currently excluded from receiving program benefits, I strongly urge the USDA to make the necessary changes to the National School Lunch Program to ensure that ALL eligible students can benefit from this important, federally assisted meal program.”
Mandell supported his comments by citing the growing number of children affected by Celiac Disease, food allergies, food intolerances and autism:
— Celiac Disease, is the world’s most common genetic auto-immune disease, and is estimated to affect at least 1% of the population(i). At this time, the only known treatment for Celiac Disease is strict adherence to a gluten-free diet for life (gluten is the protein that is found in wheat, barely and rye).
— Food allergies are estimated to affect 6 to 8% of children and 3 to 4% of adults(ii), and diagnoses are on the rise. For the over 12 million Americans with food allergies, symptoms can range from mild (such as gastrointestinal discomfort) to life threatening (due to anaphylactic shock).
— Another 30 million Americans have food intolerances(iii) that cause them to avoid certain foods.
— And finally, one in 150 children is affected by autism(iv) which can be effectively managed in some cases by following a diet free of gluten and casein (the protein found in dairy).
Carol McCarthy Shilson, Executive Director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center and ACDA member, also provided comments on behalf of Stefano Guandalini, M.D., the Center’s founder and medical director. “It is not right that children with Celiac Disease should be denied a safe meal or given food that is nutritionally inadequate. Surely we cannot expect our children to learn and thrive with such conditions. It is our duty to see that all children are provided with a nutritious and safe meal at school,” Guandalini commented.
Shilson also presented results from a recent survey by the ACDA, which revealed that among 2,229 parents of children with Celiac Disease, only 111 were able to get a gluten-free lunch at school. The others had to pack a lunch or go without, according to the ACDA survey.
The American Celiac Disease Alliance (ACDA) began to take shape in early 2003 when an ad hoc group of 15 leaders in the celiac community came together to help persuade Congress to require food labels to include information about allergens. The group’s efforts were instrumental in the passage of landmark legislation, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. The non-profit organization provides leadership on policy issues affecting the lives of individuals with celiac disease, an inherited autoimmune disorder affecting children and adults. The ACDA is recognized internationally for its role in advocating on behalf of all segments of the celiac community.
About Enjoy Life Foods
Enjoy Life Natural Brands, LLC (d/b/a Enjoy Life Foods, LLC (ELF)) was founded in 2001 with the mission of making great-tasting allergy-friendly foods that most everyone can eat freely. The company launched the Enjoy Life brand in 2002 with a broad product line that is free of the eight most common allergens and gluten-free. To meet the needs of a rapidly growing consumer base, in 2004 the company acquired Perky’s(TM), a line of gluten- and nut-free cereals. Today, ELF offers 29 different Enjoy Life and Perky’s products that are sold in natural food and select grocery stores throughout the United States and Canada. Visit www.enjoylifefoods.com and www.perkysnaturalfoods.com for store locations and more. In September 2008, Enjoy Life Foods was named for the second consecutive year to Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held businesses in the U.S. For more information, visit www.enjoylifenb.com.
(i) Dr. Stefano Guandalini, University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center
(iii) National Institutes of Health
(iv) Autism Society of America