Recently, there’s been a hullabaloo over the fact that our United States Congress proclaimed Pizza as vegetable on school lunch trays. And people, rightly so, reacted. Some with a “What?” and others with a “Typical!” But before we succumb to hysteria, let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same slice of pizza. Public school lunches across the country have suffered for years from sub-standard ingredients with few sourcing options (can you spell “Government Contract” Billy?) So in an effort to leave no child behind (None. Not a single one.) politicians have stepped in where nutritionists fear to tread. First, the facts:
- This recommendation affects public schools only. Private school students can continue feasting on foie gras.* Cuz that’s what they do in private schools, right?
- Pizza, per se, has not been declared a vegetable. Rather, pizza SAUCE, as in tomato sauce, has been declared a vegetable.
Look beyond the absurdity and you’ll find statistics that are even more disturbing. Tomatoes and tomato-based products are one of the “Dirty Dozen”, twelve crops that contain the highest pesticide toxins – residues that are classified as either known or probable carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hormone disruptors. But hey, Mangia!
Now I don’t mean to hate on pizza. I love pizza. A good wood-fired, artisanal-crusted pie with organic sun-dried tomatoes, local spinach, and sustainably farmed goat cheese makes my heart flutter. Throw on some imported capers and a smattering of EVOO and I’ve been known to cry. But that’s not what we’re feeding our schoolchildren. I’m not positive that school cafeteria pizza could even be classified as “food”. The ingredient list of enriched flour crust (read: highly processed), cheese (read: hormone-laden cheese with added emulsifiers and fillers to make it stringy), pepperoni (read: Ugh…let’s not go down that road), and the afore-mentioned tomato sauce reads more like a horror novel than a food label.
So what’s a parent to do? You’re super busy or money is tight and you depend on school-provided lunches. And besides…your kid kinda likes the way that pizza tastes. Two words: damage control. Send an emergency pack of organic carrots and hummus as a go-with. Organic pineapple slices as a pizza chaser can aid in digestion. And never underestimate the power of a thermos of pure, filtered water. But don’t be fooled. If pizza is a vegetable can the classification of Pop Tarts as fruit be far behind? You betcha. And that is a slippery slope.
*Just kidding about the foie gras. Everyone knows private school lunches commit just as many heinous crimes against digestion as their public counterparts.