Pizza Not to Be Considered a Vegetable in School Lunches, Say Retired Generals and Admirals?

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Obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service, and children get up to 40% of their daily calories during the school day, the retired military leaders noted.

Citing Defense Department estimates that 1 in 4 young adults are too overweight to join the military, more than 100 retired generals and admirals urged Congress today to reject new efforts from special interests to get Congress to create a "pizza loophole" that treats the tomato paste on pizza as a serving of vegetables on school lunch menus.

"We are outraged that Congress is seriously considering language that would effectively categorize pizza as a vegetable in the school lunch program. It doesn't take an advanced degree in nutrition to call this a national disgrace," said Amy Dawson Taggart, director of the national security non-profit Mission: Readiness. "This is more than just a food fight on Capitol Hill. This new effort to undermine school nutrition regulations raises national security concerns."

In a letter to Congress, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton (Ret.) joined more than 100 retired generals and admirals who are members of Mission: Readiness, in stating: "We urge you to reject any language that would weaken the proposed guidelines for school meals or derail the implementation process."

This is not the first time that military leaders have asked policymakers to address the nutritional needs of our youth as a matter of national security. After World War II the National School Lunch Program was enacted in part due to the poor nourishment of would-be recruits.

"Given that the USDA has spent the past year finalizing science-based standards to limit salt, unhealthy fats, and calories and include more nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as part of school cafeteria menus, you'd think we'd be off to the races and kids would soon be eating much healthier food at school. Instead, we appear to be reliving the past battles over ketchup as a vegetable. If schools—or industry lobbyists— want to count pizza as a vegetable, they should make a pizza that meets the vegetable standards, not tamper with the standards to create a pizza loophole," said Dawson Taggart.

To read the full letter sent to Congress, go to www.missionreadiness.org