The U. S. Government has been confused about the classification of a tomato for more than a century, from the Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden in 1893, to the ketchup-as-a-vegetable fiasco of the '80s. But this latest one is just too much.
Late Monday, Congress passed an appropriations bill that considers a tablespoon of tomato paste as a serving of vegetables, negating the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation that the serving size be bumped to at least a half cup.
Never mind that the process required to reduce a tomato from juicy and fresh to a substance the consistency of Play-Doh likely takes away many of the valuable nutrients. And that the added salt and preservatives further degrade the fruit's nutritional value.
This very same paste, spread thin on a brick of dough, topped with a layer of melted cheese and slices of processed meat, qualifies "frozen pizza" as a vegetable.
Never mind that the process required to reduce a tomato from juicy and fresh to a substance the consistency of Play-Doh likely takes away many of the valuable nutrients.
Fearing a push out of the cafeteria line, lobbyists from the American Frozen Food Institute convinced members of the House Appropriations Committee to strike out that half-cup rule and other school lunch regulations, such as restrictions on sodium and servings of starchy vegetables.
AFFI commends Congress in a statement, declaring,
this agreement ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally-funded school meals. Also, this agreement recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste and ensures students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta."
So what now? It appears that the light smear of tomato sauce will be all it takes to get pizza into the coveted category of "vegetable serving." Basically, it’s good and nutritious enough for kids to eat everyday.
Conservative committee members claim that they are worried more about government overreach by telling kids what not to eat in public schools. There have been concerns, also, about the cost of revamping school lunch menus when budgets for schools are tight all around the country.
Sadly, it seems that tackling childhood obesity is now on the back burner (or fryer, if you will) while the economy is still in the gutter.
But with major issues like high unemployment and massive income disparities, aren’t you feeling warm inside knowing that brave members of Congress are protecting fat kids from being persecuted by Big Government? Indeed, someone is thinking of the children, for once.