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.

Nanny state says no to brownies, pizza

Uncle Sam could ban school bake sales and pizza days under a child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama, reports AP.

The legislation, part of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to stem childhood obesity, provides more meals at school for needy kids, including dinner, and directs the Agriculture Department to write guidelines to make those meals healthier. The legislation would apply to all foods sold in schools during regular class hours, including in the cafeteria line, vending machines and at fundraisers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will have the power to decide when a food-based fundraiser is “infrequent” (OK) or “frequent” (not OK).

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says the bill is aimed at curbing daily or weekly bake sales or pizza fundraisers that become a regular part of kids’ lunchtime routines.

What so awful about a weekly slice of pizza? Obesity starts at home, not at school.

$3 million for not-very-matic pizza

Let’s make our own low-cost, healthy pizza, San Jose Unified officials thought in 2003. We’ll buy a $720,000 Pizzamatic, spend $2.2 million to build space for it in the central kitchen and then call Domino’s for pizza. It turns out that $3 million doesn’t buy a lot of  pizza, reports ABC News.

It’s called the Pizzamatic — an automated, industrial, all-in-one, pizza-making workhorse.

“It has a dough stamper, followed by a sauce machine,” said student nutrition consultant John Sixt.

It has a mammoth stainless-steel production line, like those the big pizza companies use. No other school district in the country has one.

It can produce up to 1,000 pizzas an hour. In the last two years, the Pizzamatic has produced 2,000 pizzas. Total.

“Sounds like the Pizzamatic isn’t very matic,” said parent Lisa Stapleton.

The pizza business is a lot harder than district officials had anticipated. In 2007,  San Jose Unified hired a consultant to get the machine to work. Sort of.

Sixt realized the Pizzamatic needed a full-time technician to keep it running and to keep all those electric eyes lined up. He also needed a crew to clean the machine each day. So he abandoned most of the Pizzamatic — all those gadgets — except for the oven and a couple conveyor belts.

Pizza production is now down to just one day a week. Kitchen workers assemble the pizzas by hand, starting with frozen crusts. The Pizzamatic sits polished and empty. It’s too complicated and temperamental for the staff to manage. They wait at the end of the assembly line to feed pizzas into the oven, one by one.

. . . The district also never figured out how to get the pizzas to schools all over the city before they got cold. They didn’t have enough trucks and drivers.

Over the past five years, San Jose Unified has spent $1.4 million to order out for pizza;  the central kitchen — using staff and the not-very-matic Pizzamatic — produces 100 pizzas each Friday for elementary school pizza parties.

However, Superintendent Don Iglesias dreams of  the day when San Jose Unified  will make a profit as the pizza supplier for all 33 school districts in the county.  Perhaps flying pigs can deliver the pies.