I remember all too well the food served in public schools back in the day. In high school (Stuyvesant Class of 1981, NYC), the main course offerings were, um, basic: “Lasagna” (perfect square, little piece of bread to go with it), Salisbury “steak”, Filet-o-”fish”, and yes, a perfectly rectangular piece of pizza. I also recall actual vegetables, like green beans and salad (non-descript iceberg lettuce with cherry tomatoes).

During the Reagan era, for all of you young whippersnappers out there, that administration tried to designate ketchup as a vegetable.

Reagan’s FY1982 budget proposed $57 billion in spending cuts, with $27 billion of those cuts to entitlements. The budget was later modified and passed as the Gramm-Latta Budget which cut $1 billion from the school lunch program and tasked the USDA with coming up with a solution that maintained nutritional requirements for school lunches in spite of the lower funding On September 3, 1981, the Secretary of Agriculture proposed classifying ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables to save money on school lunch programs.

The proposal to classify ketchup as a vegetable met with outrage from nutritionists and Democrats.[2] Compounding this outrage, on the same day that the USDA announced the cost-cutting proposal for school lunches, the White House purchased $209,508 worth of new china and place settings with the presidential seal embossed in gold.

Well, everything old is new again for our students eating public school lunches, as pizza will remain classified, if the House GOP members have their way, as a vegetable. Via Think Progress.

Earlier this year, the USDA made an attempt to bolster the nutrition guidelines for the federal school lunch program. Under the new guidelines, for instance, school lunches would be limited to one cup of starchy vegetables a week and the ability of schools to count tomato sauce on pizza towards their fruit and vegetables requirement would be scaled back. But House Republicans, in a new spending plan unveiled yesterday, have done away with those changes:

The spending bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. The department’s proposed guidelines would have attempted to prevent that.

The changes had been requested by food companies that produce frozen pizzas, the salt industry and potato growers. Some conservatives in Congress have called the push for healthier foods an overreach, saying the government shouldn’t be telling children what to eat.

So now the argument of the GOP is government overreach — how absurd is this, when it’s clear that the kids eating these lunches obviously aren’t bringing their own, so the government sets its standards for the National School Lunch Program. House GOP losers, the foods served should at least meet the guidelines of government’s own USDA’s “Choose Your Plate” guidelines, or hell, the Food Pyramid. There’s no way pizza (or the “qualifying” ingredient, processed tomato paste), falls into the vegetable category:

Dark green vegetables 

bok choy
broccoli
collard greens
dark green leafy lettuce
kale
mesclun
mustard greens
romaine lettuce
spinach
turnip greens
watercress

Red & orange vegetables

acorn squash
butternut squash
carrots
hubbard squash
pumpkin
red peppers
sweet potatoes
tomatoes
tomato juice

Beans and peas*

black beans
black-eyed peas (mature, dry)
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
kidney beans
lentils
navy beans
pinto beans
soy beans
split peas
white beans
Starchy vegetables 

cassava
corn
fresh cowpeas, field peas, or black-eyed peas (not dry)
green bananas
green peas
green lima beans
plantains
potatoes
taro
water chestnuts

Other vegetables

artichokes
asparagus
avocado
bean sprouts
beets
Brussels sprouts
cabbage
cauliflower
celery
cucumbers
eggplant
green beans
green peppers
iceberg (head) lettuce
mushrooms
okra
onions
parsnips
turnips
wax beans
zucchini

It’s preposterous that the basic health initiatives as outlined by the government, along with the suggestions in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” program are seen as overbearing government intrusions that can be undermined by these brain-dead GOP proposals.  The people eating these lunches are minors, for crying out loud. There should be every expectation that parents of students consuming the school lunches are clear that what Uncle Sam considers a vegetable — and that it is in alignment with basic common sense. Food group classifications shouldn’t be determined by food companies hawking processed products.