In a nutshell (and this isn’t a joke), they’ll have the frozen pizza served in public schools to be classified as a vegetable, thus categorizing it as "healthy," in a way.
And under this new category, pizza would remain qualified for frequent servings, with most paid for by the federal government, under new nutritional guidelines, too.
And not only does this concept stink, but its odor is reminiscent.
Think back to 1981, when the USDA attempted to reclassify as a vegetable the ketchup served in public schools.
But even though the circumstances are remarkably similar (each consisting of the GOP trying to magically modify the nutritional class of processed tomato-based products), they still have notable differences.
Last time, it was just a scheme to cut funding from the school lunch program for budgetary reasons.
This time, though, it’s a scam, and to directly benefit companies whose lobbyists have littered the capitol in efforts to promote their own profits.
Under the Gramm-Latta Bill of 1981, $1 billion was slashed from the budget of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. That left USDA with 90 days to accommodate that cut while still maintaining nutritional requirements in foods served at public schools. Pressed for a quick, low-budget response, the USDA proposed reclassifying the ketchup condiment as a vegetable in order to reduce serving costs.
It was supported by Pres. Reagan and his appointed USDA Sec. John Block (who came up with the proposal), but after catching lots of flak nationwide, this reclassification program was dropped, shuffling ketchup back into the condiment corner.
Now flash forward to late 2010. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which essentially is a modified reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, was passed while Democrats still had a majority in both houses of Congress, then signed into law in December.
This modification requires public school lunches to follow new nutritional guidelines, and with goal of addressing the ever-increasing circumstances that affect today’s youth. Hoping to counter the trend of increased obesity and poor health in kids, the Act called for reductions to fat and salt content in school meals, along with more servings of fruits, vegetables and grains.
The Act is much needed here in South Carolina, too, it seems. We’ve been one of the top-ranked states in obesity since 1985, and today between 25 and 29.9 percent of our population is obese. Approximately 58 percent of public school students in the state receive free or reduced-cost lunches covered by the Act. And South Carolina could use all the help it can get for these lunch programs, as those students have recently been stuck with nothing more than peanut butter sandwiches at times.
Making the need much more apparent, this trend in poor nutrition even affects our national security. According to Mission:Readiness, an organization of retired military officers, 27 percent of American youth aged 17 to 24 (about 9 million) are “too fat to fight,” and would be excluded from service due to obesity.
So who could complain about this new Act? It not only protects the health of today’s kids, and it doesn’t just serve a need for us here in South Carolina; it also protects our nation and its security as a whole, too.
Yesterday, though, the Republican Party (which took a majority in the U.S. House beginning this January) modified the Act. That’s right – pizza is back on the list for frequent school servings, only now it’s been reclassified as a healthy, nutritious vegetable.
And how is this different from the 1981 “ketchup is a vegetable” debacle? Well, this time it’s not to accommodate any budget cuts. Instead, it seems the GOP is heavily promoting this fallacy to benefit their own campaign budgets.
Clamoring for exclusions to the Act’s recommendations is none other than the American Frozen Food Institute, a contributor to the $5.6 million spent so far this year in lobbying efforts to change the Act to its liking.
And 81 percent of the campaign donations this same AFFI tossed out over the last two decades went to (you guessed it) Republicans.
Members of AFFI include the manufacturers of frozen pizzas, too; in fact, AFFI is the parent organization of the National Frozen Pizza Association.
(It also represents frozen French fry companies; under the Act, kids would only receive one serving of fries per week from their school cafeterias to reduce saturated fat and sodium intake. Republicans took that restriction out, too, of course.)
So, instead of protecting the future of our country, House Republicans protected the sales of fat and cholesterol items for their campaign contributors instead.
And don’t even try to reply with a “you say tomato sauce, I say tomato” counterargument. An average slice of frozen pizza contains a mere two teaspoons of tomato sauce originating from paste (about 20 grams), as TPM recently calculated using information from Corey Henry, vice-president of communications for AFFI.
Using the nutrition label from a nearby can of Hunt’s tomato sauce as reference, those two teaspoons amount to 0.645 percent of the recommended daily allowance for Vitamins A and C. Aside from one-quarter of a gram of fiber (one percent of the RDA), no other nutrients are included.
As a result, then, the microscopic contents of two vitamins completely nullify GOP/AFFA claims that frozen pizza served in public schools can in any way provide any nutritional value whatsoever, let alone constitute a vegetable.
In addition (using the RDA label of a simple DiGiornio’s pepperoni pizza for comparative calculation), tomato sauce is only one-seventh (14.3 percent) of the total content of a one-slice serving. And what’s the nutritional content of the remaining 86 percent?
Well, there’s a little calcium from the cheese, some iron from the dough (and for some reason this sample doesn’t even have any Vitamin C), but … that one slice also contains 35 percent of the RDA for saturated fat (seven grams) and 42 percent of recommended sodium intake (1,010 milligrams).
And remind yourself, now – what exactly are the health problems that this Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act intends to address? Obesity, which is primarily caused by high intake of saturated fat, and health, which is directly influenced by both fat and high sodium intake.
We’ve always known the GOP to be representative of nothing other than its donors, and which is all the more apparent in this case, too. But did they have to resort to a “let them eat pizza” tactic? Especially on an issue that pertains not just to our children, but to the future of our country, too?