Pizza is not a vegetable

There are a lot of things sparking debate in DC right now, but there’s one issue that has me really concerned. The spending bill that was passed last week, H.R. 2112, included a section regarding the national school lunch program that will:

-Confirm four tablespoons of tomato paste as a full serving of vegetables
-Prevent limitations on sodium content until further research can be done about its health impacts
-Prevent regulated inclusion of whole grains until the USDA can officially define them
-Prevent further limitations on starchy vegetables like corn and peas

These mean that the already unhealthy school lunch diet mandated by our federal government will continue to reinforce the poor eating habits from which so many Americans suffer: high sodium, starch and carb consumption without the balance of healthy nutrients and vitamins. The first bullet point alone makes a slice of plain, frozen pizza count as a serving of vegetables to our kids as long as it has one quarter cup of processed “tomato” paste on it!

Good nutrition, particularly for our kids, has been a driving value in my personal and professional life. I’m absolutely incensed that the government would try to undercut the well-being of our children for political gains, whether it’s about budget cutting or Big Agra subsidies. This bill is yet another example of how those representing us in government don’t really represent us at all.

I’m going to write my representative to let them know how upset I am about this plan. I encourage everyone to do the same. Let’s make it clear that THIS PRECEDENT IS UNACCEPTABLE. Future school nutrition legislation must reflect our sincere concern for the nutritional health of our school population, not the deep pockets of lobbyist groups.

Below, I’ve drafted a sample letter for your convenience. The best way to get your legislator’s attention is with an actual letter, so please print up a copy and mail it to your congressional representative.

I’d love to hear your input directly, so when you send a letter, please let me know in the blog comments or on my facebook page.

Dear Representative  [senator’s name],
                I’m writing you to express my disappointment in the proposed amendment to the Senate Bill H.R. 2112. The modifications to the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act outlined in Section 743 are explicitly destructive for the health of our youths in public school. With obesity in kids and teens in the U.S. reaching the level of nearly 30%, poor nutritional habits during the formative years are a direct threat to our nation’s health. Cutting costs by redefining health standards is downright insulting, both to our intelligence as constituents and to our responsibilities as parents. What’s more, it suggests that legislative decisions are influenced more by the interests of lobbyists than by the well-being of the citizens. I understand that H.R. 2112 as a whole is intended to balance the budget and keep the government solvent from day to day, but sacrificing the health of our public school student population is not an appropriate way to improve the national finances.

Thank you,

[Your name here]
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