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Pizza Might Be the Newest Veggie, But Childhood Obesity's Still on the Rise

pizzagirlLast week's Congress discussion over pizza counting as a vegetable for school lunches left me feeling completely depressed and downright ashamed for what is being offered as "food" to our country's children. (I can only imagine what Jamie Oliver thinks of this.)

Just a mere 15 days before this awful and sad conversation made national news, The New York Times announced the government's proposed changes -- the first in 15 years: that pizza would not be considered as a vegetable, potato additions would be cut back, and that fresh fruits and veggies, such as spinach and broccoli, would be added to the menu.

Childhood obesity rates might be soaring in our country, but Big Food doesn't care. Instead, they've poured $5.6 million into lobbying against the proposed changes... And companies including ConAgra and Schwan (that feed our children said frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and tater tots) seem to be running this entire show. Here's a gem from Congress' debate over our newest vegetable:

“An eighth of a cup of tomato paste has the nutritional value of a half-cup of vegetables and when mixed with water for pizza sauce, more of a vegetable is created.”

Oh, right; now we get it. And if that remark didn't make you believe that Congress is crafty enough to defy the nation's logic with this bizarre Reagan-esque veggie claim, check out ConAgra's pizza ingredients for yourself -- you'll totally be onboard with your kid eating pizza everyday in exchange for whole foods. (Right?)

As much as Congress may not want to admit to having tomato sauce on their hands when it comes to childhood obesity rates, the facts are there -- and they're quite stark. From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

- Approximately 17 percent (12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
- Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.

According to a 2010 CDC report, 12 states top the childhood obesity rates with a prevalence of 30 percent or higher: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. (Mississippi ranked highest at 34 percent.)

Similar to how we feel about cardboard frozen pizza counting as a veggie, these facts are just downright depressing. But what can we do? It seems as if even our President can't get a single veggie onto our children's plates without a battle.

So, we want to know -- as parents of kids who will potentially be eating pizza more regularly for lunch, how do you feel about this controversial new veg? Will you be packing more cold lunches in the near future? Pulling your child's hot lunch funds? How do you help prevent your child from joining the obesity statistics? Big Food may have won this round, but the real people in charge of kids are their parents and they can't ever take that away. What do you make of this whole school lunch mess?

If you're as completely bummed out by this entire conversation as we are, check out the following video. It may only be a bit of aloe for the burn, but it'll surely leave you snickering over the congressional super committee's fear of sequestration and wondering what in the world we would ever do without John Stewart's daily dose of brain candy.

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