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Frozen Pizza Doesn't Grow on Trees, But Congress Says It's a Vegetable

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In what has to be one of the most ridiculous mash-ups between our government and food since the Reagan administration proposed ketchup and relish be classified as vegetables comes word Congress is so desperate to keep pizza on school lunch menus they are declaring that two tablespoons of tomato paste as used on the pizza is also a veggie. Like the controversial aforementioned 1981 spending bill that bended the rules of common sense and nature, the current bill is aimed at saving money. It also would pretty much obliterate the efforts of the Obama administration and the Agriculture Department to make school lunches healthier, which is a huge lynchpin in First Lady Michelle Obama's national "Let's Move" campaign.

All so that food producers can keep selling frozen pizzas and french fries for cheap to the nation's school districts. And, hey, don't you know: Potatoes are a "gateway" vegetable that will lead kids to try, and fiend for, broccoli.

The school districts, most of which are suffering from tightened purse strings, say what the USDA wants them to serve would cost them too much. And so they teamed up with those big food producing companies, and lobbied.

From NotionsCapital:

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The American Frozen Food Institute spent over $5 million convincing Congress to protect their juicy $11 billion annual school lunch harvest from the pestilence of nutritional common sense, and they prevailed. Result: kids will still eat government-subsidized carbs, fat, and salt, and Big Food will get fatter, too.

Nevermind that the USDA worked to create a healthier vision for school lunches based on
recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, and that changes implemented would help curtail childhood obesity and save on health costs for those kids as they grow older and become (likely obese) adults. And nevermind that this kind of bill will make it harder for other healthy changes, like the addition of whole grains and the decrease in processed sugars included in kids' meals, to be implemented in the near future. Or nevermind that that California Endowment has spent millions locally to counter childhood obesity.

As we know, our own Los Angeles Unified School District is super devoted to making kids' lunches delicious and nutritious. (Or so we hear.)

And, yes--it's possible to draw a parallel here to the occupy movement, as succinctly explained by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones, who writes "the food system, like the financial system, is both in desperate need of reform and utterly trapped under the heel of industry influence."

The spending bill's proposals when it comes to school lunches are so outrageous, one can't help to laugh. Quips Doug Barry at Jezebel:

In an effort to show solidarity with the Republican-controlled House, I imagine that the Christian right will introduce a slice of pizza as the new Veggie Tales character who the other members of the group try really hard to accept as one of their own despite his cheesiness.

Not even Jamie Oliver can help us out of this jam tomato paste.

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