Yes Virginia, Pizza Is a Vegetable

Yes Virginia, Pizza Is A Vegetable

Thu 24 Nov 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team

Last week Congress let us down. Big time. Lobbied heavily by the food industry – specifically frozen foods and potatoes – our elected officials secretly overruled science-based standards and a democratic process to keep salty, highly processed, fast-food-style lunch items on the tray every single day.

The National School Lunch Program (and Breakfast and Snack programs) feeds millions of kids each day and sets the rules for everyone’s school lunch. The Food Revolution will keep reporting on what’s happening and what you can do at a national and local level.

Jamie’s Frustration and TXT campaign

Flummoxed by the last-minute meddling by Congress, Jamie went on Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night and launched a “text-in” campaign calling for people to flood their Senators with messages that America is outraged. Nearly 5000 people signed up for the campaign and made more than 1100 calls to Washington. And the subsequent Food Revolution conversation on social media helped make #pizzaisnotavegetable a topic still trending in news nationwide.

The Story of the Standards

These new standards for the National School Lunch Program (and Breakfast and Snack programs) were the first major changes in 15 years. They were based closely on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the USDA also incorporated 130,000 public comments.

Last Thursday, November 17th, Congress passed a large spending bill and based on industry lobbying, crammed in a handful of amendments that directly impacted school lunch. They deemed “pizza a vegetable,” more specifically allowing 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to count as a full serving of vegetable. They also removed recommended limits on starchy vegetables, opening the door for French Fries and Tater Tots to be served every single day.

Moving Forward

Despite these last-minute setbacks, the process has not been a total loss. The new standards will still provide for double the amount of fruits and vegetables in a meal, add variety in produce, and place limits on overall calories, fats and sodium. Once the final USDA standards are released (expected late this year), we will report more on what you can expect to change in your local school cafeterias, and what your rights are under the new law. Stay tuned!

The Food Revolution Team

To Learn More:

Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” with Kermit the Frog
Stephen Colbert’s humorous take on the potato/French fry lobbying
Fox News’ Deidre Imus on how this was driven by money
Huffington Post overview of what Congress’ actions mean
Overview of the backroom dealings from Politico


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