Last night after reading the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) special bulletin on “Cancer and Obesity Research,” I planned to write an informative post this morning on why researchers believe that obesity not only causes cancer but also fuels cancer once you have it. And then I read today’s Washington Post.
Specifically, I read Dina ElBoghdady’s piece titled “Obama administration loses effort to make school lunches healthier.”
Here’s the situation: In accordance with federal dietary guidelines, pizza is currently considered a healthy choice for school lunches. The USDA, understanding that child obesity rates are expanding faster than our waistlines, is working to make school lunches healthier. They would like to limit the amount of “white potatoes and other starchy vegetables” to one-cup-per-week, and they would also like to reclassify tomato paste. “One eighth of a cup of tomato paste” equals a serving a vegetables under current guidelines.
Does anyone really believe that an eighth of a cup of tomato paste has the same nutritional benefits of a half a cup of vegetables?
Yes. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan) argues that it’s ridiculous to think that tomato paste on pizza is not as nutritional as eating a tomato. (Do I need to make the obvious joke about his last name?)
So Congress, in all its wisdom and (I’ve got to think) to appease its lobbyists, made an end run against the USDA’s plans to improve school lunches. On Monday negotiators from both the Senate and the House drafted a spending bill which includes language to force the USDA “to drop its plans regarding potatoes and tomato paste as it presses to finalize its broader school lunch initiative by the end of the year.”
Effing brilliant, Congress. With the growing body of evidence that diet and exercise play a pivotal role in preventing or fueling diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, you take away the USDA’s ability to improve the foods we feed our children? Did you listen to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona when he said in 2004 that “because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents?”
I’ll post the information about obesity tomorrow. In the meantime, pack a healthy lunch for your kids. It could save their lives.