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SLICE Act to bring more veggies to school lunches

Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, used some clever wordplay to draw attention to his proposed SLICE Act.  No, Polis is not advocating for more pizza in school lunches, he’s upset that unhealthy pizza is being routinely served to students and classified as a vegetable by the USDA. His proposed act, The SLICE Act, would end school lunch programs’ reliance on tomato paste—i.e. pizza sauce—as a qualified vegetable.

SLICE stands for “School Lunch Improvements for Children’s Education” and would, in part, seek to create a better pizza in three ways: 1) “Allow the USDA to accurately count 1/8 of a cup of tomato paste as 1/8 of a cup, instead of half of a cup, which qualifies pizza as a vegetable” 2) “Allow the USDA to implement science-based sodium reduction targets” and 3) “Allow the USDA to set a whole grain requirement.”

From Rep. Polis’s release, “While tomato paste has a small amount of nutrients, pizza is loaded with sugar, salt, bread and cheese, which carry a great deal of fat and carbohydrates that turn into sugar during digestion,” reads a release from Polis’s office. “Categorizing pizza as a vegetable because of its small amount of tomato paste is exactly the wrong approach, as Type II diabetes rates among children and child obesity continue to climb.”  The point of publicly funded school lunch programs isn’t to benefit agricultural interests or feed kids as cheaply as possible, noted Polis accusing Congress of being manipulated by fast-food lobbyists (because last year the Agriculture Department had a similar plan but Congress eliminated it) . It’s to make “sure our kids eat right because research shows a clear connection between nutrition and student performance in school.”

Corey Henry, the vice president of communications for the American Frozen Food Institute responded saying, “Congress did not make pizza a vegetable. Pizza is not now considered a vegetable and never will be considered a vegetable, and no one has ever, or will ever, ask that pizza be considered a vegetable.” He went on to explain that tomato paste is packed with Vitamins A and C and rich in fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Nearly two whole tomatoes are required to make just one tablespoon of tomato sauce, which is why the USDA credits 1/8th of a cup of tomato paste as a full serving of vegetables.

What Henry says may be true, but it’s a nutrient-rich food generally served in conjunction with tons of sugar, sodium, calories and carbs in the form of pizza.  Given our nation’s problem with childhood obesity, shouldn’t our government and the American Frozen Food Institute try a little harder to create healthier options for school lunches?  No one is saying take pizza out of school lunches, we’re just asking for it not to be counted as a serving of vegetables.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing lrstewar@gmail.com.