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Is Pizza a Vegetable?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 21, 2011 5:55 AM

Many parents encourage their children to eat their vegetables - but they usually don't mean "eat some pizza." Pizza as a vegetable has long been a mainstay in student meals. And now, Congress might soon be blocking new USDA standards for federally-funded school lunches that would have encouraged what many consider healthier choices - and eliminated pizza's classification as a veggie.

This move comes after Congress decided to propose legislation that eliminates funding for the new standards in an effort to reduce costs.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the bill. It will go onto the Senate for approval.

If the bill does away with the USDA regulations, what will happen in the lunch line?

  • It will stop the USDA from limiting starchy vegetables like corn and peas to two servings a week. Fox News reports this was meant to limit the amount of potatoes served at schools.
  • Allow two tablespoons of tomato paste to count as a "vegetable" - hence, why pizza can be counted under the current system. The USDA had wanted to increase this amount to half a cup of tomato paste, which would be too much to put on pizza.
  • The USDA had wanted to enforce sodium limitations on lunches. The new bill will require the agency spend more time studying the effects of reduction.
  • The USDA had also wanted to increase the amount of whole grains included in foods. If the bill is passed, they will have to define what "whole grains" are before instituting any standards.

The bill has received positive support from ConAgra, Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods, and makers of frozen foods, reports The New York Times. Some nutrition experts have called the bill a setback in the fight against obesity.

Schools that get federal funding look to these requirements to set a minimum standard for what they can serve. If the new USDA standards for school lunches were implemented, this may have meant healthier lunches.

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