Recognizing that childhood obesity is a serious issue, the Obama administration is making efforts to remove unhealthy foods from school provided lunches. However, Congress--protecting the special interest of the salt industry and potato growers--has introduced legislation that will block those efforts. The USDA previously submitted recommendations (pdf) restricting sodium and limiting the use of heavy starches in school lunches while boosting whole grains. The USDA recommendations, counting ½ cup or more of tomato paste as a vegetable, would be overridden by the legislation which reduces the eligible amount of tomato paste to that which can be found on a school pizza, allowing pizza to qualify as a vegetable.
Can you really blame Congress? Vegetables are expensive. Congress believes (despite findings to the contrary) that it will save a significant amount on federal subsidies used for school meals by allowing the cheaply produced pizza to remain rather than introducing the more costly veggies. Keep in mind, this is all at the expense of America’s children who are already consuming too much sodium, starch, and sugar while not getting nearly enough physical activity. I guess some members of Congress believe that warping a definition intended to affect change is just as good as actually making that change. Next they can distort the current definition of obese to mean “of average weight” and single-handedly end childhood obesity in one motion. After all, that would be the least costly route, and we are in times of fiscal consolidation.