Pizza is a Vegetable

Twitter is abuzz with news that Congress has declared pizza to be a vegetable. It's actually not news at all.

Twitter is abuzz with news that Congress has declared pizza to be a vegetable. It’s actually not news at all.

AP (“Pizza is a vegetable? Congress says yes“)

Congress wants to keep pizza and french fries on school lunch lines, fighting back against an Obama administration proposal to make school lunches healthier.

The final version of a spending bill released late Monday would unravel school lunch standards the Agriculture Department proposed earlier this year, which included limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line and delaying limits on sodium and delaying a requirement to boost whole grains.

The bill also would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. USDA had wanted to prevent that. [emphasis added]

I have no strong views on the merits here. While making school lunches “healthier” would seem an unassailable good, it has to be balanced against other considerations, including costs and the propensity of the kids to actually eat the food. I’d rather my kids eat chicken breasts and broccoli than hot dogs and fries; I’d rather my kids eat a hot dog than throw their lunch in the trash. And, hey, ketchup is a vegetable.

But it’s worth noting that, while most people won’t bother to read past the headlines, the fact of the matter is that treating pizza–or, actually, the tomato sauce on said pizza–as a vegetable is the existing policy.



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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RGardner says:

    The proposed standards are against all potatoes, not just french fries (whether baked or fried or boiled and mashed). Also against peas and corn. Two portions of potatoes, corn and peas allowed per week (combined).

    I guess that leaves tomatoes (on the low-fat pizza), green beans, and broccoli (which 2nd graders love, along with Brussels sprouts).

    Salsa is also considered a vegetable. But if it has corn in it I guess it would count against the weekly two starches.

  2. Franklin says:

    When kids get hungry enough, they’ll tend to eat what’s given to them. It’s a constant battle, though, especially when you have a mother-in-law over who won’t let them starve.

    Oh, yeah, we’re talking about school lunches here, not my mother-in-law. Sorry.

  3. WR says:

    The current situation is absurd.

    The Obama administration is working to change it.

    The Republicans are fighting to save it.

    So, yeah, I think it actually does count as news.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:


    To be fair, the salt and potato lobby like to lobby both sides. When it comes to influence of BigAg, its pretty bipartisan.

  5. john personna says:

    Based on what we now know about health and activity … I’d be more concerned that physical activity is expanded … including chores for students.

    The last time I was in at the doctor I was surprised that their two questions were “do you smoke?” (no) and “do you exercise every day?” (yes). That’s a big change and improvement over the old “three days a week” stuff.

  6. Help petition to declare Congress a vegetable! Click here!