Congress acts quickly to make sure pizza remains a vegetable in school lunches

The Takeaway

Story from The Takeaway. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

Quick action by Congress may stop the Obama administration’s efforts to make school lunches healthier.

Existing policies on the books make it so french fries and pizza, provided it has enough sauce, can be counted as vegetables under the federal school lunch program.

“The bill actually introduced was to preserve standards that were already enacted,” said Jeff Yanger, a writer for The Wall Street Journal.

President Obama is trying to implement reforms to make school lunches healthier, hit his efforts have run into powerful lobbying efforts by the potato industry and the frozen pizza industry.

At the behest of lobbyists, legislators introduced language keeping pizza on the vegetable list during negotiations to reconcile Senate and House versions of a department of agriculture spending bill. Earlier legislation had already tried to block the potato provisions.

“In general, if you are going to set your diet based on what lobbyists tell you, you’re going to be in trouble,” said Farai Chideya, a journalist and blogger at

Now, the legislation will go back to the House and Senate for approval and then onto President Obama, who could veto the measure.

The entire controversy began months ago when the USDA tried to impose new standards on school lunch.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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