The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that looks to reinstate pizzas and French fries on lunch menus of federally funded schools. This follows an earlier proposal that threatened to remove the food items from the menu.
In fact, had the earlier proposal gone through, it would have stripped the pizza's status as a vegetable and limited how often French fries could be served. As of now, pizza is considered a vegetable, in order to meet nutritional standards for subsidized school lunches.
The calls for a change rose from a child nutrition law, passed in 2010, calling on schools to improve the nutritional quality of lunches served to almost 32 million U.S. schoolchildren. According to Congress, the presence of tomato paste on a pizza should count as a serving of vegetable. The changes, had they been implemented, would have called for at least a half-cup of the paste, in order to qualify as a helping of vegetables; current rules require only two tablespoons of the paste.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is understandably less than happy with the situation, pointing out that approximately 12.5 million children from ages 2 to 19 are obese and serving pizzas classified as vegetables will only worsen the situation.
The problem is that serving lunch to 32 million children is big business... and big money. That is why lobbyists for the major food brands got involved. The action has been declared a victory for the makers of frozen French fries and pizzas.
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It's an important victory, said Corey Henry, spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute. The AFI had lobbied Congress on behalf of frozen pizza sellers like ConAgra Foods Inc. and Schwan Food Co. and French Fries makers McCain Foods Ltd. and J.R. Simplot Co.; the latter is best known as a supplier to fast food company McDonald's Corp.