A Case of Acute Green Confusion – Part II

See entire February 1, 2012 newsletter including video and upcoming show guests

(Update to the Rant of November 9, 2011)

In my November 8th newsletter, I wrote about my confusion, frustration and yes – even a bit of anger regarding proposed changes in our national school lunch program. I wrote that it upset me that an eighth-cup of tomato paste counted as a vegetable and also that the farm states were spending lots of money opposing the changes in the lunch programs due, in a significant way, to the proposed reduction in the use of potatoes for french fries. Feel free to refresh your memory about the entire rant.

I don’t exactly know if I am ready for another rant because what I really feel is frustration and yes, even sadness to bring you this update on the new, approved rules for federally subsidized meals (in other words, paid for by us.) Given that childhood obesity is our biggest public health threat and given that roughly 40 percent of the calories children eat are consumed in the school lunch period, shouldn’t we ALL care about this issue? Since “federally subsidized” is a euphemism for tax payers money (same money that funds the defense budget), should not more people care that we, the people, will end up paying for healthcare costs due to childhood obesity if we don’t take measures to change things?

Ready for the facts? (If you can stomach them.)

Fact: tater tots and french fries will still count as a vegetable.

Here’s the quote from one source I read: “One source of saturated fat the agency wasn’t able to cut down on is the french fry. The agency initially proposed to sharply limit starchy vegetables like potatoes on school menus, but lawmakers and farm lobbyists killed the effort last year.” Is it far too dramatic to say they might be killing our children instead of “the effort.” Sickens me.

Rant: Sen. Susan Collins from Maine took credit for helping thwart the Department of Agriculture’s efforts to reduce the amount of potato-based foods served in schools. Shockingly, Maine is the fifth-largest potato-producing state in the US. Farmers lobbying worked. Forget the children – let them eat cake AND french fries.

Fact: At this writing, an eighth-cup of tomato paste (mostly used on a pizza) is STILL considered a vegetable.

Tomato PasteThe agency tried to diminish the amount that tomato paste in pizza counts toward vegetable requirements. Congress blocked that effort late last year. Why? Because the food industry complained. OMG – say it isn’t so. Are children not our future anymore? What about the parent industry? Where was everybody that should care about good nutrition? Where was I?

Fact: The Agriculture Department initially estimated that the proposed rules would add about $6.8 billion over the next five years, about 14 cents to the cost of a school lunch. Last week they cut that estimate to $3.2 billion, partly because they removed yet another proposed requirement that schools provide a meat or meat substitute in the government subsidized breakfast programs. Once again, did anyone ask me where I would like my money to go? I guess we can always use that savings if we need to build another missile or to create another government agency. Silly me.

There is good news but it really didn’t get me that excited. It doesn’t feel like small steps, big impact. No more whole milk. Flavored milk allowed but only if nonfat, and over the next two years, whole-grain products must account for half of the grain products served in school lunches. I guess whole-grains aren’t available for purchase yet – heavy sarcasm.

Schools will also be required to OFFER students ¾ to one cup of vegetables, plus ½ to one cup of fruit a day. The students won’t be required to put that much on their trays. I get that but I also get that when I was in first grade, french fries would have trumped broccoli all day long and twice on Fridays. Still might.

Well, I guess the folks at Del Monte, Coca Cola, and the potato farm lobbyists were right. The government’s proposals were asking us to go too far too quickly. And we should just slow down trying not to grow overweight kids, pay for their health issues due to obesity and phase in thinner ones over time.

And again, for the record and as God is my judge – my children and grandchildren eat spinach, broccoli, apples and fresh peaches. There’s no disputing that.

I don’t feel so much better now like I did the last time. Sorry.