When I helped the first graders at my son’s school with their food group assignment recently, I was amazed at how many were confused about where to place types of food. So many didn’t know what a green bean was, or what strawberries were. Most were completely unaware that fish was a “meat.” It was disheartening and a good glimpse at the nutrition blunders our kids deal with. After hearing this morning’s news, things are going to get much more difficult. According to Congress, pizza will now be placed in the vegetable category.
Surely, I’m not alone in the jaw-drop response to this news. I re-read it just to make sure I was getting this right. But in clear print, the fact that school lunch pizzas contain tomato paste allows Congress to mark it as a vegetable, therefore keeping it on the menu multiple times a month in schools all over the country.
A congressional committee is responsible for this and other ridiculous staples being allowed to stay on our kids’ menus. As a fightback against the Obama administration’s proposal to make school lunches better and healthier for our kids, a bill was released late Monday entailing all the guidelines.
These standards undo all the hard work and proposals that so many, including the guidelines introduced by the Agriculture Department earlier this year. The department proposed a limit of potato use, a limit on sodium, and a requirement to boost whole grains.
As always it essentially comes down to money. Some school districts are said to have complained that the proposed changes would cost too much when budgets are already tight. The frozen pizza and French fry companies also spoke up in regards to the potential loss of business. And perhaps the strongest voice comes from the fact that so many meals are federally subsidized, served free or reduced to low-income children. That means that the government will have to tote the note on a healthier meal that may cost a few pennies more.
The new guidelines are worded nicely and are almost convincing.
- “…Nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet…”
- “Provisions allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now.”
- “This agreement recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza.”
All these statements may recognize one positive element in the food while ignoring the multiple negatives. Our kid’s deserve better. Until then I guess I can’t correct the little first graders when they place ketchup, or now pizza, in the vegetable category.