Congress Votes Pizza is a Vegetable
On Thursday, Congress voted 70-30 in favor of bill 298-121, blocking legislation proposed by the USDA's new proposed standards for a healthier school lunch. Health officials, the military and the Obama administration were all in favor of the new standards. However, lobbyists for salt companies, potato growers and frozen pizza producers successfully had those changes blocked in the bill. And Congress said okay.
This means that a meager 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce on top of a slice of frozen pizza, laden with cheese is considered a vegetable serving. French fries and tater tots can be served as a vegetable as many times a week as desired, rather than having them limited to twice a week. Measures to include more whole grains in lunches, stalled out.
What it means is schools don't need to introduce leafy greens to the diets of the 31 million kids on the national government program for free and reduced school lunches. It means they can continue to stuff kids full of not-so-great-for-you foods daily that really should be consumed in moderation.
I personally would rather pay for healthier kids than pay for their health care down the road, as poor diets can lead to diabetes and obesity-related issues later in life. I would rather have a country full of well nourished children. A healthier diet can improve concentration in schools, yet our elected officials would rather protect the processed food industry.
Kids don't need pizza on a weekly basis, nor do they need French fries as their vegetable choice. Kids need to be exposed to a healthy diet that includes plenty of leafy greens. Let's take a closer look at the potato, a vegetable that when steamed has approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates for a small potato.
We aren't talking tater tots or French fries, just a plain potato (which, incidentally, is not what is being served in schools). A serving of tater tots will get you 22 grams of carbohydrates, 400+ milligrams of sodium and 8 grams of fat. In contrast, a full cup of canned green beans has 6 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams if those green beans are fresh. Serve those tater tots alongside a cheese-laden slice of pizza (with the recommended two tablespoons of tomato for your second vegetable serving) and you have a meal that passes the school lunch requirements but doesn't really give kids anything but carbs and fat.
We need a country of people who believe that healthy food leads to healthy individuals, and we need adults who are willing to do what it takes to make sure our kids are getting that rather than making sure their pocketbooks are padded. Shame on you, Congress.