Department of Education Considers Pizza Vegetable to Meet Requirements

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The Department of Education has considered pizza to be a vegetable as long as it has a half cup of tomato sauce. --Photo by Adam

Personal trainers often advise their trainees to stay away from fatty and oily food – especially pizza. Despite this, the Department of Education has classified pizza as a vegetable.

In an effort to fight childhood obesity in America, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The State Department of Education primarily administers the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program (FFVP) in the US. The new guidelines double the amount of fruits and vegetables in school lunches.

The new guideline also encourages more whole grain foods and fat-free milk. The bill sets a maximum calorie amount and cuts sodium and trans-fat. The problem is: the new dietary guidelines are not helping kids. Rather than putting school budgets toward healthier meals, that would obey the new USDA guidelines to help fight childhood obesity in America, Congress is finding the easy way out, by redefining what qualifies as a vegetable.

Pizza has qualified as a vegetable in past years as long as a half-cup of tomato sauce was served on the pizza. Now, schools are not even reaching the half-cup requirement, as tight budgets would rather put their money toward new technology than loading extra tomato sauce on school pizzas. “If more students took gym, it could reduce obesity and still fit in the budget,” said Physical Education teacher Frank Weaver.

By changing the school lunch menu, Congress worried that the USDA’s new proposal could have put pizza-makers and potato growers out of the school lunch business. Some conservative House members have also argued that the government should not control what students eat. USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said, “It’s unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America’s children, [but] USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals.”

According to the USDA statistical abstract of the United States taken in 2010, approximately 31 million students ate school lunch each month in the national school lunch program in 2008. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19 percent of children ages six to 19 are obese. By making simple changes to school menus, child obesity could dramatically decrease.

The military is not pleased with the new regulation either. A group of retired military generals claimed, “Readiness is proclaiming this has become a national security issue because obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.”

Although students like eating pizza at lunch, some students are surprised a common food can suddenly switch food groups, just to meet a budget. “Pizza should not be served as a regular vegetable because it has more fat than nutrients,” said sophomore Vasilia Hangemanole, “yes, [pizza] does have a vegetable in it, just like a chocolate sundae has calcium [in it].”