Tomatoes are not vegetables. They have seeds. Tomatoes are fruits. End of story.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on to the real story at hand – which is that members of Congress are currently fighting the USDA by way of a spending bill that would not only block or delay current efforts to limit potatoes and sodium in school lunches, but would also allow pizza sauce on a slice of pizza to count as a serving of vegetables.
“The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now,” reads a report on the situation by The Washington Post. “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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As many others have already said, it’s kind of like when Ronald Reagan wanted to classify ketchup as a vegetable to reduce costs to schools trying to meet their health requirements. The difference here is that this isn’t a suggestion made by the president himself. To the contrary, our current president is backing the USDA’s efforts to curb the rampant French fry and pizza consumption that is currently going down.) Rather, the forces lobbying congress for this bill to allow pizza to count as a vegetable are reportedly none other than the food production companies who manufacture the frozen pizzas that are served as school lunches.
Those that back the food producers cite common talking points: the government shouldn’t decide what children eat, and the USDA’s more stringent standards put too much pressure on schools that are already struggling to work within their budgets. Those who back the USDA cite anger that lobbyists are trying to maintain the status quo (and, perhaps, their profit margins) at the expense of schoolchildren and their health. “They are making sure that two of the biggest problems in the school lunch program, pizza and french fries, are untouched,” Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) nutrition advocate Margo Wootan told the Post.
But the USDA is not backing down, noting that their improved school lunch proposal is based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (described as “the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences”) and is necessary to cut down on the childhood obesity epidemic. “While it’s unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America’s children, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals,” said USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe in a statement.