Congress Rejects Healthier School Lunches - Insists Pizza is a Vegetable

This from the Associated Press:

Congress wants to keep pizza and french fries on school lunch lines, fighting back against an Obama administration proposal to make school lunches healthier.

The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year, which included limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line and delaying limits on sodium and delaying a requirement to boost whole grains....

Food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes, and some conservatives in Congress say the federal government shouldn't be telling children what to eat.

I guess the problem with that logic is that the government currently is telling children what to eat based on what they subsidize in the school lunch program. The most jaw-dropping portion of the food bill is that it maintains the current categorization of pizza as a vegetable because of the thin smear of tomato sauce that covers the doughy concoction.

While Congress does the bidding of the tater-tot lobby a new study out of Harvard indicates that potatoes are the biggest culprit in weight gain:

On the basis of increased daily servings of individual dietary components, 4-year weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb) and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb).

Maybe it's going to be up to innovative school districts like the one in Chicago to change the direction of school lunch programs. They just instituted an antibiotic-free chicken policy:

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today began serving local chicken raised without antibiotics to students in 473 schools. This development comes on the heels of a fresh chicken purchase direct from the USDA earlier this fall. The district's new scratch-cooked chicken program includes about 1.2 million pounds from Amish farms that do not use antibiotics, for a total of about two million pounds of fresh chicken in the 2011-12 school year. Students will be offered bone-in chicken two to three times each month.

CPS' enormous purchase of chicken grown without antibiotics, made through food service provider Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, is the first of its kind. No other district in the nation is serving this kind of poultry regularly at such a scale.

Go here for previous posts on the ongoing debates around school lunch programs.