You might have heard about Congress’ most recent ruling on one of America’s favorite foods: pizza. No, they didn’t announce it as a new national food. And no, they also didn’t settle the argument over Chicago and New York style. What happened is much less humorous and much more unfortunate.
Congress, working against the Obama administration, blocked a change within the agriculture appropriations bill in order for those industrial processed pizzas to look more nutritious than they are in school lunches. Their tool? Fibbing the actual serving of vegetables. Rather than counting 1/8 cup of tomato paste found on pizzas as 1/8 cup of tomato paste, Congress is allowing it to be treated as a 1/2 cup, allowing schools to “credit” the nutrition of the larger, full-serving of vegetables.
Deceptive? Quite. This has led to some arguing that Congress is calling pizza a vegetable. While this is far from what they have actually done, the phrase certainly carries a point. Congress is misrepresenting the facts, and the reason is simple: “This makes it easier, and cheaper, for pizza manufacturers to produce a product that includes a serving of vegetables,” says the Washington Post’s Sara Kliff. What this also does is make sure our students are eating more pizza instead of actual vegetables.
What Gives, Congress?
The immediate follow-up to this action has been a question: why did Congress opt for such a ludicrous rule? Despite the bulk of our elected officials not being nutritionists to begin with, it likely has something to do with the $5.6 million price tag on the frozen food industry lobbying bill. As mentioned above, this action – before anything else – makes it easier and cheaper to produce pizzas. Fewer ingredients, fewer nutrients in an already highly processed food, and no pressure from the government? Certainly seems like someone is winning from this situation.
Eat those Vegetables
What this means for us is that, until we can fix our brilliant political system, we need to be sure our students are getting enough vegetables in their diet. Just based on school nutrition, you can now be sure that your child is deficient – that “vegetable” serving that came a long with their pizza is actually 1/4 of what you think it is.
Vegetables are critical in healthy living and the development of our bodies. They deliver essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to the body, fueling growth. For instance, the American Cancer Society recommends consuming 5 or more fruits and vegetables a day to keep your body well-equipped to ward of disease and cancer.
If you’re trying to work a few extra veggies in your diet or if you want to be sure your child is getting adequate nutrition, try some of these simple tips:
- Snack your way to vegetables! Pack some carrots or a small salad in with your daily lunch.
- Make them a part of every meal by incorporating a least one vegetable-based dish. Chopping up some zucchini and squash for the omelet in the morning is one simple way of getting those greens in.
- Replace other snacks or dishes for something a bit healthier. Trading that soda for a vegetable juice is one good way to start transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.
Finally, while you work on getting your daily vegetables, be sure to write a letter to your local representative. A simple question will do – why are we making it so easy for big companies to get extra credit while our students have to work for it?