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November 15, 2011 3:55 PM Tomato paste, like ketchup, is a GOP vegetable

By Steve Benen

Thirty years ago, the Reagan administration caused quite a stir when, as part of an effort to save money on school-lunch programs, it considered a proposal to count ketchup as a vegetable. The idea generated widespread ridicule at the time.

The Associated Press reports that a similar argument is unfolding in Washington once more. The Obama administration, hoping to combat childhood obesity and related health issues, has pushed to bring healthier foods to public schools, following the recommendations by the Institute of Medicine.

Congressional Republicans have other ideas.

The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year. These include limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. The legislation would block or delay all of those efforts.

The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. 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.

Or, put in a sound-bite sort of way, Republicans think pizzas are vegetables.

“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,” USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said in a statement.

Nutrition advocates aren’t happy, either.

A group of retired generals advocating for healthier school lunches also criticized the spending bill. The group, called Mission: Readiness, has called poor nutrition in school lunches a national security issue because obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

“We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,” Amy Dawson Taggart, the director of the group, said in a letter to lawmakers before the final bill was released. “It doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • DAY on November 15, 2011 4:03 PM:

    Fat, Salt, Sugar: The American food pyramid.

  • azportsider on November 15, 2011 4:03 PM:

    "Or, put in a sound-bite sort of way, Republicans think pizzas are vegetables."

    Yes, well, fair's fair. I think Republicans are vegetables.

  • Vince on November 15, 2011 4:05 PM:

    I guess the potato and salt lobbies are pretty powerful.

  • June on November 15, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Another day, yet another reason why I'm proud to NOT be, and to never have been, a Republican.

  • DavidNOE on November 15, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Of course! Those damn libruls think healthy foods at school are a good idea, so Repigs are naturally agin it.

  • Bartender on November 15, 2011 4:08 PM:

    We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,. Come on people, it's not "Congress" - it's the radicalized Republicans in Congress that's doing everything it can to undermine ANYTHING the Obama administration proposes. Enough with the congressional generalizing.

  • Mello McGee on November 15, 2011 4:09 PM:

    Cartoonish levels of evil here.

  • c u n d gulag on November 15, 2011 4:11 PM:

    When they want to count beer as a whole grain complex carbohydrate, let me know, and I'll go back for another HS degree!

    God knows I drank enough of it for no reason at all in HS and College.
    Ok, not for NO reason...

  • Rudy Gonzales on November 15, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Since the Obama administration, hoping to combat childhood obesity and related health issues, has pushed to bring healthier foods to public schools, some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America�s children. The USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals. �We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,� Amy Dawson Taggart, the director. Kinda gives you a warm feeling all over, don't it?

  • linus b on November 15, 2011 4:42 PM:

    Strictly speaking, paper plates are made of vegetable fibre.

  • Mudge on November 15, 2011 4:58 PM:

    Obviously the Republican stance on pizza is a bone thrown to Herman Cain.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 15, 2011 5:12 PM:

    "It doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace."

    And it doesn't take an advanced degree (or particularly trenchant insight) to know that Republicans as a political party are a national disgrace.

  • CDW on November 15, 2011 5:23 PM:

    Their veggies are better than ours.

  • DCSusie on November 15, 2011 5:29 PM:

    When I worked as a reviewer in the school lunch program, I used to have a heck of a time convincing Southern rural school districts that macaroni and cheese was not a vegetable!

  • zeitgeist on November 15, 2011 5:35 PM:

    no self respecting pizza would be a vegetable. any decent pizza would sooner be classified in the meat category. if it doesn't have at least two kinds of meat, its really just a salad in a different format.

  • Jimmy Knuckles on November 15, 2011 5:51 PM:

    Clearly you libs need the nanny state to tell you, and your kids, how to live your lives. Without King Obama and Her Majesty "Big Butt" leading you by the hand you just wouldn't know what to do! You handed your kids over to the Department of Education - how'd that work out for you. I'll tell you - your kid working at McDonalds can't make change! Today's high school grad will be well fed...and only fit to bag groceries for a living.

  • martin on November 15, 2011 6:15 PM:

    This far and no mention of Herman Cain?

  • zandru on November 15, 2011 6:27 PM:

    @DCSusie: I remember walking into a restaurant in Corpus Christi where "macaroni & cheese" WAS listed on the blackboard as being the "vegetable of the day."

    Texas - it's like a whole 'nother PLANET...

  • martin on November 15, 2011 6:50 PM:

    zandru: Here in the south Mac&Cheese is regularly listed as a vegetable side. It's sorta like the vegetable plate is not vegetarian.

    luthosi undoubtedly adds Captcha

  • src on November 15, 2011 9:06 PM:

    This is Politicos slant on the same paragraph:
    �It doesn�t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace,� said Amy Dawson Taggart, director of the organization �We appear to be reliving the past battles over ketchup as a vegetable. If schools � or industry lobbyists � want to count pizza as a vegetable, they should make a pizza that meets the vegetable standards, not tamper with the standards to create a pizza loophole.�

    Wonder if anyone else will pick this point up and run with it the "pizza loophole"

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/68362_Page3.html#ixzz1dpVnfjGo

  • SYSPROG on November 15, 2011 9:18 PM:

    but but but...what about 'our children and grandchildren'???? WTF is CONGRESS deciding what is nutritional???????

  • Fleas correct the era on November 15, 2011 11:25 PM:

    NPR managed to get through this story without ever once saying "Republicans." Congress. The House of Representatives. Congress. Congress. The House.

    How 'bout that zany Liberal media?

  • Anonymous on November 16, 2011 1:26 AM:

    This is another example of some people putting short-term saving/benefits ahead of long term cost. Frankly it's old people wanting to keep status quo and their benefits over their children's benefits.

    Any money the federal budge would save by not implementing a new USAD standards to school lunches will be off set by the future health care costs caused by child hood obesity and lifelong effects on the students.

    Poor nutrients are bad for development of body and intelligence. Every poverty issue is linked back from lack of nutrients and education.
    People think just because children get more than enough calories per day, they are fine. But children need good nutrients to grow properly.
    One of the reasons financially poor children also performed poorly at studying is lack of nutrients.

    It costs a lot cheaper to pay for their vitamins than pay later for their extra education and health care needs that they would otherwise not need as they grow up.

  • Anonymous on November 16, 2011 1:36 AM:

    to a person arguing this is a "nanny state proposal", what is it that you are actually against? kids not having the rights to choose?

    the proposal is not about taking away kids and parents rights to choose lunch menus. they already don't have such rights.
    And this change came from a lot of parents who want their kids to be fed healthy lunches at schools.

    if you are referring to getting rid of sugar milks because kids will always choose sugar milks over plain milks to be example of "nanny state", then you don't understand what education is.

    would you not tell kids what to do when they ill-behave or would you say kids have rights to behave as they please?

    kids without education are the same as animals. humans need to be told what to do. they don't live by animal instincts only.

  • Jacaranda on November 17, 2011 3:47 PM:

    Just one more reason NOT to vot for the party of the 1%

  • Help declare Congress a vegetable on November 17, 2011 7:15 PM:

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