Nutrition at School: Pizza Now a Veggie

As appetizing as a garden full of greens?

If pizza is a vegetable, then why isn’t it an option when I go to the salad bar?  If pizza is a vegetable, can I get a green thumb from tossing dough in the air?  If pizza is a vegetable, why doesn’t my local garden store sell “pepperoni and extra cheese” seedlings?

I wish I had the power of lobbyists to get the government to reclassify items. I’d have them count my son’s Lego characters as dependents on my taxes and old concert t-shirts would become vouchers for first-class airline travel.  Doesn’t sound any more ridiculous than taking something like frozen school lunch pizza and declaring it the healthy equivalent of a fresh vegetable, does it?

As a student during the Reagan administration 30 years ago, I remember when they made an attempt to classify ketchup as a vegetable for school lunches. The big difference back then was how quickly the idea was laughed off the table.  Given how much more we know about the importance of nutrition a generation later, it just goes to show you the influence of Big Agriculture money in the governing process.  There’s no other way to read this except that both Congress and President Obama believe lobbyists are more important than the health of American children.

How Healthy Are School Lunches?

In actuality, it’s not the pizza that is being classified as a veggie, it’s the two tablespoons of tomato paste which equal one serving of veggies according to the USDA. Pair that with the grain from the dough and the protein in the cheese and pepperoni, and you’ve got yourself a “well-balanced” meal that the government will reimburse to the food manufacturer for the 20-25% of school children nationwide who receive federal assistance for their school meals.

It’s sad that the recent gains that had been made through people like Jamie Oliver and even the President’s own wife’s “Let’s Move” campaign seem to have been all but erased.  We can continue to educate and inform the public on the importance of eating well, but for too many, the final decision comes down to money.  It would be great if all kids brown-bagged it every day with a healthy lunch made fresh in the morning, but the reality is too many rely on whatever mass-made offering the lunchlady has on the menu.

Perhaps the only upside is now when you tell a kid to eat his veggies, he actually will.  Sigh.

About Greg Wymer

Greg Wymer is Principal and Chief of Creative for Healthy Dose Media. He was an award-winning radio copywriter and morning show producer for WFNX-FM in Boston in the 1990s, and in the 2000s won Best Viral Marketing Campaign and Best Non-Profit Campaign for his work with e-tractions, a provider of custom online entertainment. Before launching Healthy Dose Media, he spent 10 years at the MIT Enterprise Forum working as a developer of programs, content, and marketing for a global audience of startups and entrepreneurs. Greg has been a mobile and club DJ for 25 years, created and ran a pub trivia night called Useless Trivia, and is on the Board of Directors of ImprovBoston, where he performed as a cast member of its Mainstage for seven years.

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