Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reagan Vegetables Return

In a legendary move back in the 1980’s, the Reagan administration tried to categorize ketchup as a vegetable in order to get around USDA regulations for school lunches. Old condiments die hard.

In an effort many 9-year-olds will cheer, Congress wants pizza and french fries to stay on school lunch lines and is fighting the Obama administration’s efforts to take unhealthy foods out of schools.

The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year. These include limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. The legislation would block or delay all of those efforts.

The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. USDA had wanted to only count a half-cup of tomato paste or more as a vegetable, and a serving of pizza has less than that.

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Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said the changes would “prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and …provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals.”

Besides, kids know best what they should be eating; Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs are awesome! Why should the mean old government stick its nose into their dietary choices?

I’m pretty sure that there is some back-room lobbying going on on behalf of potato-growing regions. But if we’re going to be spending taxpayer dollars on the Title I programs that provide free and reduced-price meals to schools, it’s the job of the government to make sure that it’s not spent on junk food.