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14 Jan, 2012 06:24

‘Pizza doesn’t grow on trees, you know!’ US Congress mixes its vegetables

An insatiable love for food has served up a nationwide majority of overweight children. The US government is making sure they get a full serving of nutritious vegetables from the school cafeteria. And when they say “vegetables”, they mean “pizza”.

It is a super-sized crisis impossible for America to disguise – millions of American children are classified as obese. As first lady Michelle Obama attempts to tackle the epidemic by advocating more exercise, healthy eating and penning a book about the White House garden, US lawmakers are getting lambasted for exacerbating the health problem. “[Michelle Obama’s] efforts, which I applaud and think are well-intentioned, will go nowhere given the allure that fast foods have and the recent decision by Congress to say pizza is a vegetable,” David Rosen, a journalist, told RT.The greasy, cheesy, cheap meal known as pizza is served as a lunch vegetable to 32 million public school children. It all became possible because the US Department of Agriculture guidelines qualify two tablespoons of tomato paste as an official veggie serving. In November, the US Congress rejected a request from the department that would have changed requirements and removed pizza from school menus. “Congress has really shown who controls them and that’s the big food corporations and the big food corporations, companies like ConAgra and Schwans, these are the makers of these frozen pizzas. They have huge financial interest in that obviously,” says food writer and nutrition educator Kristin Wartman.According to published reports, food companies spent 5.6 billion dollars this year lobbying specifically to keep pizza-friendly US Department of Agriculture guidelines in place.The social consequence of overweight kids has millions currently battling diabetes and millions more vulnerable to heart disease and shortened life expectancy.“We know that one in three children are now obese or overweight in this country. One in five four-year-olds are obese, which is astounding,” says Wartman. “And the fact that Congress is not willing to change the food policy in our school cafeteria to benefit the health of our children is really appalling.”Issues such as corporate control and obesity are not new problems for America. However, over the years, a hunger for profits has compromised the health of an entire generation. The US Defense Department says 25 per cent of young Americans are too overweight to join the military. The epidemic is so bad that, according to a team of researchers from Cornell University, the problem has become a threat to national security.