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Congress pushes back on healthier school lunches
“We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program,” Amy Dawson Taggart, the director of the group, said in a letter to lawmakers before the final bill was released. “It doesn’t take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace.”
Specifically, the bill would:
_ Block the Agriculture Department from limiting starchy vegetables, including corn and peas, to two servings a week. The rule was intended to cut down on french fries, which many schools serve daily.
_ Allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The department had attempted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable. Federally subsidized lunches must have a certain number of vegetables to be served.
_ Require further study on long-term sodium reduction requirements set forth by the USDA guidelines.
Food companies who have fought the USDA standards say they were too strict and neglected the nutrients that potatoes, other starchy vegetables and tomato paste do offer.
“This agreement ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally funded school meals and recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta,” said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute.
The school lunch provisions are part of a final House-Senate compromise on a $182 billion measure that would fund the day-to-day operations of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week and send it to President Barack Obama.
Find Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick
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