Next time your mother asks you to eat your vegetables, ask for a slice a pizza.
In a controversial spending bill which passed on Nov. 14, United States Congress upheld a decision which allows pizza with at least two tablespoons per slice of tomato paste to be counted as a vegetable.
This overrules a part the bill, proposed in January, that would have continued counting pizza as a vegetable only if it had more than a quarter-cup of tomato paste per slice. It also would have halved the amount of sodium in school meals over the next 10 years. These points were not passed, leaving the old regulations in place.
“The only words that can describe Congress’s decision are ludicrous and comical,” said first-year food science major Josh Herskovitz. “This is another instance in which Congress is trying to [cheat] the educational system.”
The proposed changes were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding fruits and vegetables to school menus, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“It’s disappointing,” said nutrition professor Elizabeth Applegate, who was not happy about the decision, but still feels optimistic. “We can make pizza a healthful food.”
Nutritionists claim that in an effort to cut costs by continuing to count pizza as a vegetable, Congress avoided having to pay for additional fruits and vegetable being added into school lunch programs.
“It comes down to a budget battle,” said Joshua Wallach, a senior economics major. “It is a decision made to save money rather than worry about sodium and cholesterol intake.”
A large part of Congress’ decision comes from the response of school districts. Many have said that some of the USDA proposals go too far and are too expensive at times when the budget is extremely tight.
The schools take broad instructions from the government on what they can serve in some of their meals because the government subsidizes meals that are given for free or at a reduced cost for low-income children.
However, the USDA is determined to continue its efforts to make school lunches healthier.
Meanwhile, food companies have said the department has been too strict and neglected nutrients that potatoes and tomato paste offer.
The bill blocks the department from limiting starchy vegetables to two servings a week, which was intended to cut down on French fries.
It also allows USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, like the previous regulation.
Applegate said even though pizza is not typically thought as a healthy food, the ingredients inside could have benefits.
“Tomato paste is a great source of lycopene,” Applegate said. “[There’s] a benefit in reducing risks of getting cancer and heart disease.”
While this bill may make many elementary school students excited, it could increase the risk of obesity in children.
However, pizza can range from bad for your health to good for your health all depending on the ingredients and proportions used.
“It all depends on how you serve it,” Applegate said.
Wallach also believes the healthiness of pizza depends on the portion of the each of the ingredients.
“I don’t think the type of pizza they serve should count as a vegetable,” Wallach said. “The tomato sauce to cheese ratio isn’t [high] enough.”
ZANDER WOLD can be reached at email@example.com.