Nightly News | November 17, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Well, back in the days of the Reagan administration there was a big flap over the government's effort to classify ketchup as a vegetable for the purposes of this nation's school lunch program . It didn't work then. But now there's a new fight over pizza and what really constitutes healthy food for our kids in school. Our report tonight from NBC 's Anne Thompson .
ANNE THOMPSON reporting: Look at this picture. What do you see? In this week's Washington Rorschach test, Congress sees a vegetable .
Representative JARED POLIS (Democrat, Colorado): A pizza alone, particularly pizza with no vegetables on it, just tomato paste , it's common sense it's not a vegetable . What's next ? Are Twinkies going to be considered a vegetable ?
THOMPSON: Congress says a slice of pizza qualifies as a vegetable because it has two tablespoons of tomato paste and it will remain a vegetable , since this week Congress rejected the Department of Agriculture 's attempt to make school lunches healthier.
Ms. MARGO WOOTAN (Center for Science in the Public Interest): Congress has put the interests of the pizza and french fry industries before the interests of our children and before our children's health.
THOMPSON: The Agriculture Department wanted to cut back on french fries , reduce sodium, increase fruits and vegetables and require a half cup of tomato paste for a pizza slice to get a vegetable credit. But the food industry balked and argued kids would, too.
Mr. KRAIG NAASZ (American Frozen Food Institute): And for many of those kids served by the federal school program, this is their primary source of nutrients through the day. So we need to ensure that we're providing them foods that they will eat.
THOMPSON: Parents in Chicago also want foods that are good for kids.
Unidentified Man: Junk? I don't think it even belongs in school lunches to be honest.
Unidentified Woman #1: I don't want the kids to be my size, you know.
THOMPSON: In the last 30 years, childhood obesity rates in the US have more than tripled. First lady Michelle Obama is on a mission to change that, urging America 's kids to exercise and encouraging healthy eating. McDonald's got the message, reducing french fries and adding fruit to its Happy Meals . Red Lobster and Olive Garden are making their children's menus healthier, too. But Congress isn't budging. It says pizza is a vegetable .
Unidentified Woman #2: Vegetables are vegetables, you know, that they're coming out -- they're growing out of the ground.
THOMPSON: Giving America new food for thought . Anne Thompson , NBC News, New York.
WILLIAMS: When we continue here tonight,