School lunch: Pizza is a vegetable

Pizza (with tomato sauce) will be a vegetable in school lunches under legislation proposed by Congress, reports Nirvi Shah in Ed Week. Remember the ketchup-as-a-vegetable flap in the Reagan era?

“It is not that a whole-grain, moderate-in-fat-and-sodium pizza can’t be a healthy food. It just isn’t a vegetable,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Legislators also ditched limits on starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and lima beans, under pressure from Big Tater. (Senators from potato-growing states took the lead.)

The bill also bans the Agriculture Department from spending money to reduce sodium in school lunches.

French fries are no good without salt.

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  1. The sodium move is a good one. It’s the latest bogeyman, but the science isn’t really there.

  2. A friend with a very picky eater used to add pureed carrots and finely diced onion and celery to her tomato sauce (for pastas as well as pizza) and her son never noticed it. However, I doubt that’s the case here.

    • Yeah, I puree veggies to sneak them into pasta/pizza sauce as well. I usually use zucchini or summer squash, sweet potatoes, & carrots. But there ought to be a stipulation that if pasta sauce is going to be used to satisfy a vegetable requirement, it needs to contain more than just tomatoes & onions.

  3. Stacy in NJ says:

    I don’t understand why they don’t just serve actual vegetables and real food. Raw carrots and celery are dirt cheap and have a long shelf life. Steamed green beans and broccoli are only marginally more expensive. Is it too difficult to cut up some veggies and steam them if need be? What’s so wrong with a ham and cheese sandwich, carrot sticks, a couple of cookies and a carton of milk? How about some chicken soup, whole grain rolls, and a green salad? Does some pasta mixed with steamed broccoli, butter and a touch of garlic sound okay?

    • Many kids won’t eat veggies; sad, but true. My older kids’ ES tried a salad bar, but it only lasted a few months because so few kids would choose it. A local Scoutmaster is usually in charge of the kitchen (boys help) on their frequent camping trips. Other than tomato sauce, the only vegetable almost all will eat is corn on the cob. I’ve supplied him with lots of recipes; his own kids love them and no one else will touch them. He does do the pureed vegetable trick with tomato sauce, but he has to do it at home, so the kids don’t know. I understand that the Alice Waters local food program in Berkely schools have had the same problem; kids throw out the veggies. It’s sad, but far too few households serve healthy, from-scratch, meals, expect kids to eat them, and avoid junk foods and excessive sweets. If kids haven’t been trained to eat well before they get to school, I think it’s too late for many. Obviously, if kids a truly hungry and can’t afford to buy anything else, they’re more likely to eat what is served.

  4. I dunno... says:

    Would pasta with broccoli etc. make for a very healthy dumpster?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      But the kids don’t eat the crappy pizza either. I’ve had a look a the garbage cans in our local school. They’re still filled to the brim with food that was thrown away – crappy food.

  5. I’d be very happy to see the school lunch program ended, period. Kids can bring lunches from home.

    • Never going to happen. Just try voicing the opinion that perhaps parents should be able to provide their children a bowl of cereal in the morning instead of the schools, and you’ll be considered horribly uncaring towards children whose parents won’t/can’t do that.

    • All through my school days (and my brother’s), we brought lunches from home. Because the cafeteria lunches were so awful, and the line moved slowly enough that if you got towards the end, you risked not having enough time to eat. We were both picky eaters but somehow our mom managed to raise us without either of us contracting scurvy or beri-beri.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        I pack a lunch every morning for my high schooler: two sandwiches (tuna, ham or turkey and cheese, pb&j – whatever) and two pieces of fruit (apple, orange, banana – whatever). He buys milk or juice, dorritos or cookies if he’s really hungry. No big deal.

      • My kids all took lunches daily; the usual was lean meat on ww bread/roll with lots of lettuce and green peppers, plus fruit, carrot sticks or equivalent, and either cookies or chips. Doing the lunches simply meant a little advanced planning, since they really wanted meats cooked at home and home-made cookies. I also sent healthy breakfasts with my wrestler on days he had weigh-ins and for my swimmer after early-morning practices. The swimmer also took an after-school snack, since she trained 3 hours after school. I was in grad school most of the time, so I took lunches, too; if having the kids eating healthy is a priority, that’s what you do. They thought the school lunches were inedible, but they did have the reputation of being food snobs.

  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Good point about sodium. Just about the time the nannies get themselves cranked up, we get a study associating low sodium with increased risk of heart attack.
    IMO, the sodium thing is a combination of people who want to think they have control and agency, and the masochistic idea that if it’s somewhat annoying, it must be good, and the sadistic desire to make other people unhappy. I don’t see any change just because it’s shown to be meaningless. As if that’s at all relevant.

  7. One of our favorite guest speakers in my elementary school-teaching days was the nutritionist who explained that pizza was a good food choice because it included all the food groups. Just don’t eat it every day.

  8. Come help declare Congress a vegetable! Click here!