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The School Lunch Follies: LAUSD Lauds Themselves For Agreeing Pizza is A Vegetable

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Today the USDA implemented new nutritional standards for school lunches, including allowing the two tablespoons of tomato paste on frozen pizza to count as a serving of vegetables. Yep, according to our government, pizza is a vegetable.

In response to today's news, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was quick to congratulate themselves for being "a model school district" and "leader in children's nutrition." Seriously, those are their words, from a press release issued today. Paging Jamie Oliver!

They toot their own horn a bit more:

Recently, the LAUSD revamped its school menu, which was two years in the making. This new culturally-diverse menu includes such healthy offerings as hummus and pita chips, fresh green salads and whole wheat pancakes among many other options, including the popular California roll.
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Culturally diverse? Sure: Nothing says global cuisine like green salads, pancakes, and the California roll (hint: they call it a California roll for a reason, guys).

Maybe they're shying away from the "Asian Pad Thai" (department of redundancy department) and the other "international" items on their kid-tested (remember: the LAUSD considers the kids "customers") today because frankly, the kids hate it. Not because it's healthy. Not because it's global. But because it's GROSS. What was tested ended up very lost in translation as it was commercially produced, packaged, shipped off to schools, and then warmed up and plopped down on the students' lunch trays. (I know what you're going to say: "The LAUSD should cook the food fresh at each school." You do know that knives--you know, what cooks cut with--aren't allowed inside school kitchens. If the school even has a kitchen. Most just have "warming" and "cooling" compartments.)

No wonder the kids still prefer fries and pizza. At least they're semi-edible.

And those fries and pizzas aren't going anywhere, because if the relationship between school lunch and the corporate control of politics isn't more obvious, the big businesses who have big contracts to supply the big districts with their big orders of frozen food have some big money and power to throw around. Reuters confirms those businesses made sure the USDA didn't kick their foods off their approved list:

Trade associations representing frozen pizza sellers like ConAgra Foods Inc and Schwan Food Co as well as French fry sellers McCain Foods Ltd and J.R. Simplot Co were instrumental in blocking changes to rules affecting those items.

"More than 80 percent of the enrollment qualifies for the free and reduced-price meals," notes the LAUSD. Bummer most of those kids prefer not to take them, partly because they are poorly educated at school and home about nutrition (can we plant some more school gardens please?), partly because being on the free lunch program has a stigma, but mostly because the food just plain isn't good. (People write whole books about how nasty school lunches in America are.)

So where were we? Oh, right. The LAUSD rocks for banning soda and (pretending to ban) pink and brown sugar milk.

And pizza is a vegetable.