Tuesday, November 22, 2011

School Nutrition Policy – Pizza and Vegetables or Pizza as Vegetables

It is much easier to reach agreement that children should be eating nutritious meals during the school day – then it is to agree on what constitutes nutritious. There is guidance to ensure that children eat enough calories during the school day – but also that those calories come from nutritious foods. For instance, under the new nutrition standards proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, schools would need to use about one-half cup of tomato paste on pizza in order for the sauce to count as a serving of vegetables. This upset groups like the American Frozen Food Industry – who argued that the amount was too great and has lobbied Congress to stop the standard from moving forward. Congress apparently agrees, as the House of Representatives' agriculture appropriations bill was released last week, and the bill will prevent the new rule on tomato paste from taking effect.

With the incredible childhood obesity rates in the United States –nutrition advocates are strongly opposing the legislation. Margo Wootan, the Director of the Center for Science and the Public Interest issued a statement regarding the bill saying; “It's a shame that Congress seems more interested in protecting industry than protecting children's health, and continued to say that “if finalized, this legislation may go down in nutritional history as a bigger blunder than when the Reagan Administration tried (but failed) to credit ketchup as a vegetable in the school lunch program. Pizza should be served with a vegetable, not count as one.”

Keeping child nutrition at the forefront is important for the health of our children and of our country. No matter how nutrition is defined, States will be responsible for adhering to the federal regulations and so engaging in the conversation at the national level is a good opportunity to ensure that the values of your community are considered.

For related results-based policy strategies visit our Policy for Results section on preventing and reducing childhood obesity.