The Pizza Pie: A Full Eight Servings of Vegetables?

November 16 2011 - 2:00 PM

Pizza Lunch GenericPicky kids across the nation won't have to see brussel sprouts on their lunch trays any time soon. On Monday, Congress rejected the U.S.D.A.'s proposed changes to school lunch programs that would have added more fruits and vegetables to childrens' plates.

Caving to pressure from lobbyists for food companies like ConAgra and DelMonte, Congress voted to keep current guidelines in place, which means that yes, a slice of pizza still qualifies as a vegetable.

The "pizza as vegetable" argument has become a ubiquitous one for proponents of more nutritious school lunches, much as the "ketchup as vegetable" image was in the early 1980s. Under current regulations, if a pizza slice contains near a quarter cup of tomato paste, it qualifies as a serving of vegetables in school lunches.

The U.S.D.A.'s recommendations, which also included other provisions like a reduction in sodium in lunches, would have added about 14 cents to the cost of each meal. John Keeling, executive VP for the Potato Chip Council, said that taxpayers shouldn't have to "shoulder this burden."

At a time when child obesity and nutrition are national concerns, Congress' rejection of the proposal seems like a step backwards. Of course, school lunches aren't the only way to improve childhood nutrition and overall health; discussions of exercise and equal access to healthy food at home are also crucial pieces of the pie.