In the 80s, President Ronald Reagan was famous for allowing the school lunch program to cut costs by counting ketchup as a vegetable serving to help prop up the “two vegetables a lunch” requirement. More recently, the government fought over whether or not to limit the amount of potatoes that can be fed to school children as part of a “healthy” lunch.
Now, a new battle is being waged, and it’s over pizza.
Business interests like Conagra and Schwanns are lobbying Congress, insisting that the tomato paste being used on a slice of pizza should continue to count as a full serving of vegetables under the new federal guidelines being created. The new healthier lunch standards, which are being designed to encourage kids to eat more green vegetables and help reign in childhood obesity, are once more falling prey to agricultural groups afraid of losing one of their biggest customers — the federal government. And many advocates in Congress are on the businesses’ side. Margo Wootan, director for Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, stated, “Basically Congress is fighting to keep pizza and French fries on the school menus when we have an obesity problem nationally. It’s shameful.”
The industry lobbyists’ response? California-based organizer Barry Sackin “argued that the school programs represent only 16 percent of what a typical child eats each year and too much pressure is being put on one point in what’s really a larger health problem for the nation.”
See, it’s not the school’s fault that kids are eating too much unhealthy food, and if they were simply eating a healthy diet at home, surely having one out of every three meals a day being bad for them wouldn’t make that drastic of a difference.
So, check your school lunch menu next year. Between pizza, french fries and a side of ketchup, your student will likely be eating so many vegetable servings at school you’ll hardly need to worry about what they eat at home.