Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apparently Pizza is a Vegetable. And According to the Comments on MSNBC, We Should All Just Shut Up and Deal.

Yesterday, the United States Congress voted to accept pizza as a vegetable. How is this you ask? Because of the two tablespoons of pizza sauce on them. Pizza sauce is a vegetable? Yes, tomatoes are good for you, and there certainly are way worse things than pizza sauce, but you have got to be kidding me. Loaded with sugar, salt and who knows what preservatives, pizza sauce in no way resembles a real veggie. Not to mention that botanically, tomatoes are fruit, but I guess that is beside the point. 

Here is the best part - the USDA has been a big proponent of helping to improve the quality of school nutrition, but guess who was also quoted in the article on defending this position? The American Frozen Food Institute. That doesn't reek of special interest groups swaying Congressional vote at ALL, does it? (written in sarcasm font for those of you who weren't picking up on that.) Here are some other little tidbits from this provision:

•Block the Agriculture Department from limiting starchy vegetables, including corn and peas, to two servings a week. The rule was intended to cut down on french fries, which some schools serve daily.

•Allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The department had attempted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable — too much to put on a pizza. Federally subsidized lunches must have a certain number of vegetables to be served.

•Require further study on long-term sodium reduction requirements set forth by the USDA guidelines.

•Require USDA to define "whole grains" before they regulate them. The rules would require schools to use more whole grains.

These are all things that I agree with. My children eat lunch from home because school lunch is disgusting. I witnessed this first hand when my daughter was in first grade and I attended the "Thanksgiving Feast" at her school. It was awful. Once I saw this with my own eyes, I immediately kiboshed the school lunch eating. And guess what? Miraculously all the stomachaches she had been having vanished into thin air.

The school lunch as we know it today began as a response to pressure from the military. During WWII, so many soldiers drafted failed to be eligible for service because of malnutrition. Much of this was residual from the Great Depression with it's high levels of poverty and subsistence living and some was just from lack of education about nutrition. The end result is that the standardized school lunch became the primary way to ensure that potential soldiers had some basic nutrition every day.

Now, here is where I got mad.  Really mad.  I began reading all the comments on this article.  There were many that I would expect - people being unhappy about Congress' obvious catering to special interest groups, lack of concern about the childhood obesity epidemic etc, locavores, environmentalists, etc.  The ones I didn't expect were those filled with venom, hate and obvious bias. Those consisted of gems like, "well, then get up off your lazy butt and make your kids lunch" and "government has no business telling our kids what to eat".

Um. I do make my kids lunch for the very reasons stated above. HOWEVER, I would like to be able to have them buy lunch sometime without knowing that they are eating garbage. Oh, and since school lunch is run by the government, yes, they do get to decide what our kids eat for lunch. My kids are fortunate enough that they have a parent who can and will do that for them but many kids are not so lucky. For many children, the meals they get at school, very often on the free and reduced program, are the only "decent" meal they get.

Now, before everyone jumps on the publicassistanceisabusedthesepeopleneedtogetajob bandwagon, know that I agree with you - I do think that unwarranted reliance on public assistance is at a crisis level and something has got to change. But tell that to the hungry six year old. You know, the one who wears dirty, torn clothes to school and lets themselves in at home alone after riding the school bus. The one who lives in conditions that inspire made for TV movies. 

Those kids are real. Those kids are the sole reason I would never support drug testing as a method of weeding out people who abuse the welfare system - the children who unfortunately have to rely on those adults would be the collateral damage and I'm not willing to make that sacrifice. Those kids are lucky that there are people who care enough to pack backpacks of food for them to take home every Friday because when they don't, Monday morning doesn't come soon enough. Those kids live in shelters. Those kids go to our school and I look at their faces every day. Maybe we should tell them to get a job. Or just go hungry. Or just move to Bangladesh, where both of those options are perfectly fine.

So how about a helping of green beans instead of a pizzagetable? Is that really too much to ask?  Where we live, we are surrounded by farmers growing fantastic fruits, vegetables and raising various animals for butchering and I'm sure they would LOVE to have a built in client like a large school district. Why can't these groups work together? Because of people in Washington making decisions based on campaign donations. Because of people saying "let them eat cake". Because our government is the same old same old regardless of who is at the helm. Because because because because...

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