Congress goes for grease

Grease mongers rejoice! In an epic battle of knives and forks, Congress emerged victorious as it slashed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposal to add more fruits and vegetables to school lunches.

The National School Lunch Program is obliged to meet the federal nutrition requirements. This bill would have halved the amount of sodium served in schools. Additionally, it would have increased whole grains, greens and necessary vitamins.

Thanks to Congress, french fries and pizza still count as vegetables. I may not have an advanced degree in nutrition, but where I come from, pizza and french fries are junk. Oozing with salt, sugar and preservatives, this is hardly what students should be consuming every day at lunch.

“Wait!” the conservatives sputter. “The government can’t tell our children what to eat. Their liberty is being violated!” Sarah Palin can sashay through the school halls holding cookies and preaching the Constitution — dare I question if she has ever read it — but it does not change the fact that we have a national epidemic on our hands.

It is time to wake up and smell the spinach. We are becoming a nation of fatties — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Growing up overweight leads to a plethora of health issues down the road, including heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer and more. Why on earth would we want this for kids? Schools are designed to be places of education.

Teaching does not have to be confined to the classrooms, and learning to eat and live healthily is a part of a general education.

A study conducted by the National Institute on Aging in 2005 concluded that “over the next few decades, life expectancy for the average American could decline by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity.”

Let’s look at the situation from a big picture perspective. We have schools serving disgustingly unhealthy lunches, rampant childhood obesity, expected lifespan decreases and a bill to improve all three major issues by only raising lunch prices by 14 cents.

Clearly our dear friends in Congress are on an extended vacation. Instead of trying to improve the U.S. schools in any way they chose to cave to special interest groups.

Oh yes, the makers of french fries and frozen pizza had reason to celebrate before heading off to their jolly Thanksgiving holidays.

Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute, said “[This agreement to fail the bill] recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamin A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta.”

You can only imagine my fury when I read this quote. For one thing, when tomatoes are turned into a paste they are boiled down and lose a large part of their nutritional value.

After factoring in the sugar, sodium, and calories in the paste, it would be better to eat fresh, raw tomatoes. And yet Congress remains convinced that tomato paste in pizza constitutes a sufficient serving of veggies.

Congress is not acting in our best interests. It’s time to call it a day and throw the scumbags out of Washington.