GOP House Appropriations Committee says Pizza is a Vegetable

20100418-uspizza-big-thumb-500x375-84785.jpgFor those who watched the Pixar film Wall-E, the survivors of thr human race return to Earth after an environmental calamity when evidence of plant life emerges again.  But since humans had been in space for centuries, it appears the concept of farming was lost on them. The captain of the ship, upon landing back on earth, told his passengers they’d grow their own food and mentioned planting “Pizza Plants.”  It got a chuckle from the audience, but apparently Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee are doing their best to have pizza declared a vegetable for federal school lunch programs.

Rep. Jerry Lewis and Rep. Ken Calvert are Southern California’s representatives on this committee.

From the story in the Associated Press:

A spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards proposed by the Agriculture Department earlier this year, forcing USDA to pull back an attempt to limit potatoes on the lunch line, delaying limits on sodium and delaying a requirement to boost whole grains.

The spending bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. The department’s proposed guidelines would have attempted to prevent that.

The changes had been requested by food companies that produce frozen pizzas, the salt industry and potato growers. Some conservatives in Congress have called the push for healthier foods an overreach, saying the government shouldn’t be telling children what to eat.

In a bill summary released Monday, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said the changes would “prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and … provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals.”

House Republicans had urged USDA to completely rewrite the standards in their version of the bill passed in June. The Senate last month voted to block the potato limits in their version. Neither version included the language on tomato paste, sodium or whole grains, which was added by House-Senate negotiators on the bill.

Nutrition advocate Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the changes proposed by Congress will prevent schools from serving a wider array of vegetables. Children already get enough pizza and potatoes, she says. It would also slow efforts to make pizzas — a longtime standby on school lunch lines — healthier, with whole grain crusts and lower levels of sodium.

“They are making sure that two of the biggest problems in the school lunch program, pizza and french fries, are untouched,” she said.

A group of retired generals advocating for healthier school lunches also criticized the spending bill. Mission: Readiness has called poor nutrition in school lunches a national security issue because obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

“We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,” Amy Dawson Taggart, the director of the group, said in a letter to members of Congress before the final plan was released. “It doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace.”

Those will remember efforts by the Reagan Administration to have ketchup declared a vegetable.  The effort was to reclassified ketchup and pickle relish from condiments to vegatables in an effort to shave funding from the hot lunch programs for school children in the 1982 budget.  If it had passed, the reclassificaton would have resulted in $57 billion in spending cuts.  What did pass was a budget that cut $1 billion from the school lunch program, forcing the US Department of Agriculture to devise a new way to maintained nutritional requirements for school lunches with less money. One of those ideas was a proposal to classify ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables to save money on school lunch programs.

In 1998, the Clinton administration had salsa classified as a vegetable for school lunches and nutritionists were okay with this change on the grounds that Salsa had less processed veggies or fruit in thick syrup.  Properly prepared Salsa has thick chunks of mutliple vegetables including tomatoes, pepper, beans, corn and onion.

In France, pizza and pomme frites are limited to one lunch serving a week in French schools.

You have to wonder what Herman cain thinks about reclassifying pizza as a vegetable.


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