Congress Looking to Declare Pizza Is a Vegetable for School Lunches

Geek Culture

Is this the new equation?Is this the new equation?
The U.S. Congress is looking to vote on an appropriations bill that, among other things, will revise the guidelines set for federally-funded school lunch programs. In a move eerily similar to the “ketchup is a vegetable” rules in the ’80s, the new guidelines will allow frozen pizzas to be classified as a vegetable when determining the nutritional balance of a meal.

The crux of the matter is that school districts who sign on for the funding can use the guidelines as the minimum requirements when putting out their lunch programs for bid. Schools tend to be cash-strapped these days, so the federal funding is an important part of their budget, and taking the lowest bid saves money. It will not, however, if the new guidelines are approved, help kids eating the meals to get healthy food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had established healthier guidelines earlier this year, based upon recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, but received complaints from school districts about the added cost. The current bill is intended, by its authors, to reduce the burden of these costs on poor school districts. However, lobbying by the food industry may also have been involved.

Advocates for healthy school lunches are understandably upset. Mark Bishop, vice president of policy and communications for the Healthy Schools Campaign writes on their blog:

We’re now facing a policy decision that has replaced science-backed common sense with the assertion that pizza ought to count as a vegetable when it’s served to schoolchildren.

(Side note: we’re not even talking about whole-grain pizza loaded with veggie toppings! We’re talking about frozen cheese pizza with tomato paste.)

For more information, read this Associated Press article by Mary Clare Jalonick, or read the actual text of the proposed bill here.

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