From potatoes to pizza: The school lunch debate continues

Nov. 15—After last month’s Senate amendment, which sparred starchy vegetables, most notably white potatoes, from being limited on school menus, pizza is now taking center stage in the ongoing school lunch debate. According to Politico, a new piece of legislation is expected to be made public Monday that would count tomato paste on pizza as a serving of vegetables.

Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy about the proposed “pizza loophole.” More than 100 retired generals and admirals recently urged Congress to reject these new efforts. Citing Defense Department estimates that one in four adults are too overweight to join the military the former military officials noted that obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

"We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program. It doesn't take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace," Amy Dawson Taggart, director of the national security non-profit Mission: Readiness, said in a press release. "This is more than just a food fight on Capitol Hill. This new effort to undermine school nutrition regulations raises national security concerns."

The release noted that this is not the first time that military leaders have asked lawmakers to address the nutritional needs of children as a matter of national security. One of the main reasons the National School Lunch Program was enacted after World War II was due to the poor nourishment of would-be recruits.

"Given that the USDA has spent the past year finalizing science-based standards to limit salt, unhealthy fats, and calories and include more nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as part of school cafeteria menus, you'd think we'd be off to the races and kids would soon be eating much healthier food at school,” Taggart said on the release. “Instead, we appear to be reliving the past battles over ketchup as a vegetable. If schools—or industry lobbyists—want to count pizza as a vegetable, they should make a pizza that meets the vegetable standards, not tamper with the standards to create a pizza loophole.”