On May 14, Congressman Jared Polis introduced the SLICE (School Lunch Improvements for Children’s Education) Act in an effort to reverse Congress’ decision last year to define pizza as a vegetable in federally funded school meals.
While in 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed the Child Nutrition Act (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act) to discount pizza as a vegetable, Polis accuses Congress of succumbing to lobbying from the American Frozen Food Institute when it killed the proposal in November 2011.
The new SLICE legislation aims to protect children’s health, combat the growing child obesity epidemic and educate children by setting sensible nutrition standards for school lunches.
“Agribusinesses should never dictate the quality of school meals,” said Polis in a statement. “Big food companies have their priorities, which include selling cheap, unhealthy foods at high profits. But parents and schools have their priorities; making sure our kids eat right because research shows a clear connection between nutrition and student performance in school.”
Polis’ press release states that “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 small amount of nutrients in the tomato paste cannot compensate for the high amount of sugar, salt, bread and cheese in pizza—ingredients loaded with fat and carbohydrates that turn into sugar during digestion, the release argues.
The SLICE Act would restore the USDA’s authority to implement healthful standards to pizza in public school and set a whole grain requirement. View a fact sheet on the bill here.
Polis is optimistic the SLICE Act can be incorporated into the larger agriculture bill on farm and nutrition programs anticipated to be acted on in this session.