Thanks, Congress. Thanks for making parenting even more difficult than it already is.
I'm not ticked at the United States Congress for choking on its attempt to slash $1.2 trillion from the national deficit. With six super Dems and six super GOPers in the room at the same time, that's not exactly an upset we didn't see coming.
I'm talking about why Congress, 1. feels the need to spend time debating the nutritional value of pizza sauce, and 2. insists on telling us what's good for us.
In its recently-revised ag appropriations bill, Congress is making it easier to count pizza sauce as a serving of vegetables. No - and you can cut this out for your kids and slap it on the fridge - this does not mean pizza is a vegetable.
But this is good news for the Schwan Food Co., the largest supplier of school lunch pizzas in the country. The problem is, kids are crafty creatures, and when they see headlines that include the words "pizza" and "vegetable," the sale has already been made. Can't you just hear the dinner table talk now: "But mom, I did eat my vegetables, even the crust, see!"
That's from a kid's perspective. To its credit, Congress didn't actually declare pizza to be a vegetable, but its decision to declare pizza sauce a vegetable does enough collateral damage and provides kids with enough of an arsenal to use against their parents when suppertime rolls around. Kids don't think about tomato paste when they eat pizza, they think about the cheese, the pepperoni, the sausage, the Canadian bacon. The grease. The stuff that makes our mouth water. Without it, we wouldn't be having this conversation. What parent hasn't struggled to make sure their kids eat healthy? Now that tomato paste is held in such high nutritional regard, we're up against it even more; the kids have an argument - and the U.S. Congress has their back.
Apparently, just one-eighth of a cup of tomato paste is equal to the nutritional value of a half cup of vegetables. According to the Washington Post, Obama administration guidelines would've counted a half cup as a half cup. "Under this proposal, schools would credit tomato paste and puree based on actual volume as served," the regulation said. "Schools would not be allowed to credit a volume of fruits or vegetables that is more than the actual serving size."
Congress has slammed the door on that reform. These are probably the same people who drown their carrots in ranch dressing and slather their celery with globs of Skippy and claim they're eating smart.
You can break down nutritional value all you want; our concern should be the perception this act of Congress gives to the kids, to the parents, and to the country, which is fighting a massive child obesity problem as it is. And this goes far beyond what our kids are eating in schools. When the subject of pizza comes up, they don't think about school lunch, they think: "Dominos or Pizza Hut?" and those clever kids can now walk out of a pizza joint feeling stuffed and bloated but believing in their heart of hearts that they just did their bodies a favor.
Last time I checked, the sauce is just one part of what makes up a pizza; it's an ingredient, and it can be as nutritional as you want to believe it to be, but what about all those toppings? What about all the grease? We're dealing with an obesity problem in this country one day, and the next were giving kids the notion that pizza is not only really, really good, it's good for you?
The childhood obesity battle in this country might have hit its peak, or it might keep getting worse, but we shouldn't fight that battle with extra pepperoni. While there's no reason to be concerned about your kid having a slice of pizza for lunch at school - the Schwan pizza served at schools is actually pretty healthy as far as pizza goes - the message we're sending kids by even associating pizza with vegetables is not only a stretch, it's counterproductiveyummy, but counterproductive.