In case you had any question about what really motivates our nation’s legislators (hint: $), here’s an article from today’s NY Times that should provide the answer: Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches.
Current school lunch rule:
- A slice of pizza counts as a vegetable, as long as there’s some tomato paste on it.
Proposed new school lunch rule:
- A slice of pizza counts as a vegetable, as long as there’s 1/4 cup of tomato paste on it.
This (and other proposed rules that would reduce fat, salt, and white potato consumption, among other things) sent the companies who produce the lion’s share of the food consumed by American students into a raging tizzy. These companies include, you may not be surprised to learn:
- ConAgra (maker of such nutritious fare as “Lamb Weston quality french fries” [a.k.a. fat + salt + white potatoes], and “Kid Cuisine All-American Fried Chicken”: 540 calories, with 37% of “daily value” for total fat and cholesterol; 31% of sodium; and 54 grams of carbs–all neatly packed in a microwaveable plastic tray),
- Del Monte Foods (with its nearly infinite variations on canned fruit in syrup), and
- Coca-Cola (’nuff said).
You know you’re dealing with a sleazy bunch of lobbyists when John Keeling, executive vice-president of the National Potato Council, can straight-facedly say that his organization is committed to protecting “school districts, parents and taxpayers” from this massive government attempt to deprive the nation’s kindergarteners of their deep-fried lard. Or words to that effect.
Another thoughtful spokesman, this time Corey Henry of the (and its subsidiary–I’m not making this up–the National Frozen Pizza Institute), said that the proposed rules made no sense, since that much tomato sauce on a slice of pizza would be gross, and kids would just throw all that good vegetable-equivalent pizza in the trash, and then starve to death during arithmetic. Oh, and the terrorists would win, too. (Okay, he didn’t put it exactly like that, but I stand by my paraphrase…).
Somehow (hint:$) these earnest spokespeople managed to twist enough congressional arms to block the legislation. Democracy in action!
It must be incredibly difficult to be a healthy school lunch advocate at times like these, but thank God people keep at it. Some examples of advocacy are here, here, and here. There are many, many more organizations fighting the kind of legislative craziness we’re seeing at present, and some of them are likely right in your community. If you have one you’d like to spotlight, please send me the information and I’ll post it.