The Ketchup Advisory Board must have been working overtime during the Reagan administration when United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) pronounced ketchup a vegetable despite its saturation of high-fructose corn syrup. The proclamation was a victory for children everywhere, but the reality was much more dismal than the late night television poke for the obvious irony.
In 1982 Reagan was looking to cut billions from the budget, including a $27 billion slash in entitlement programs. A billion of those dollars that came from the school lunch program after it was crippled by allowing the condiment to water down the nation’s children’s health and nutrition.
Last week the USDA made what looked to be an honest attempt to correct the foul they committed over 30 years ago by limiting the amount of potatoes in a school lunch, requiring more green vegetables and curiously announcing that an eighth of a cup of tomato paste is the equivalent a half cup of vegetables.
The tomato paste mention meant that a pizza would still count as a vegetable, a move that Conagra had been lobbying for once they caught wind of the healthier agenda. However, as any pizzaiola worth his salt would agree, the standard 4×6 pizza that schools buy from Conagra would be swimming if that much sauce was included on their slice. Also, there is a large difference between tomato paste and tomato sauce, with the latter being a watered down version chockfull of preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients.
The congressional announcement caused a ripple affect in the media with headlines reading that congress declared pizza a vegetable, which actually was not the case. The incident was more of a bad public relations flack than reality. You can read what congress really said here. For good sport, notice that this was submitted by a man by the name of Mr. Rogers.
Recently France banned the use of ketchup in schools, and perhaps we could look towards a similar action. A typical lunch in a French school costs $6 but much of this is waived for lower income families. The French lunch might include up to 5 courses such as potato leek soup, carrot and bean salad, lamb with saffron, assortment of cheeses, and grapefruit.
Or better yet, allow these meals to come from home as they do in Canada where there are no kitchen facilities in the public schools.
In times where our country is experiencing an obesity crisis, it would appear on the surface that Congress has taken what Stalin would say “one step forward and two steps back”.