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Are Pizza & French Fries Vegetables?
The House of Representatives essentially undercut advocates fighting childhood obesity by passing a bill that abandons proposals to end the reign of pizza and French fries on federally funded school lunch menus. Changes would have reversed pizza’s status as a vegetable and limited how often French fries could be served. Remember President Obama signed a child nutrition law in 2010 calling on schools to improve the nutritional quality of lunches served to almost 32 million school children.
Lobbyist against the changes call the smackdown “an important victory.” Corey Henry, spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) said “Our concern is that the standards would force companies in many respects to change their products in a way that would make them unpalatable to students.” .
“They started out with French fries and now they have moved on to pizza,” said Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat, who lamented the government’s subsidy of unhealthy diets through school meals. “Pizza alone (without side dishes) … common sense, it’s not a vegetable.”
What Does This Mean for Lunches Kids Eat?
As a result of Congress siding with food lobbyists, there will likely be no limits on the amount of starchy veggies served and less variety of fruits and vegetables overall. Additionally, calculating the use of tomato paste in pizza will stay the same. The proposal of requiring pizza to have at least a half-cup of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable serving will likely not happen. Currently, just two tablespoons of tomato paste is required toqualify as a vegetable serving.
According to a USDA report from November 2007, pizza and French fries were among the most commonly consumed lunch foods by participants in the national school lunch program.
Healthier school lunches are a cornerstone of First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity. Nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese and the numbers are growing.
“Clearly more pizza and French fries in schools is not good for kids, but it’s good for companies that make pizza and French fries,” said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that advocates better food and nutrition policies. The House sent the bill to the Senate for final Congressional approval.