Earth to Congress: Tomato Paste is Not a Vegetable

If you had any doubts about the loyalties and efficacy of the US Congress, you need look no further than the today’s spending bill, the fourth emergency spending bill since April.

Hailed as a “breath of fresh air” by Steven LaTourette (Rep-OH)), the bill effectively blocks school lunch standards that would limit French fries, pizza and salt and increase the use of whole grains. It also allows tomato paste to be counted as one of the required vegetables in federally subsidized school meals. I’m not making this up.

It’s pitiful to think that we have to wage a national campaign to remind our representatives that healthy food for our children is important. But, even if we did, it wouldn’t make a difference. Congress is beholden to the pizza industry, the potato-growing states, and the American Frozen Food Institute.

So, don’t wait around for Congress to help; do it yourself. There are many inspirational models for healthy school lunches that you can duplicate in your community. Here are just a few:

Download The Rethinking School Lunch Guide from the Center for Ecoliteracy. The guide has ideas and strategies for changing your local school lunch programs.

Chef Ann Cooper, known as the Renegade Lunch Lady, has new ideas, strategies, tips and recipes for transforming school lunch and tools for connecting to a network of people doing the same. is an online toolkit with free tools and recipes that have worked well for school districts around the country.

Farm to School connects local farms with schools so that healthy meals can be served in school cafeterias.

Cooking with Kids, started by Lyn Walters in the Santa Fe public schools is being duplicated all over the country.

The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, an initiative to build and share a national food curriculum, is supported by Alice Waters and The Chez Panisse Foundation.

Salad Bars 2 Schools is a comprehensive grassroots public health effort to support salad bars in schools. Partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative, the goal of Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools is to fund and award 6000 salad bars by the end of 2013. Schools can apply for grants online.

I’d love to hear what’s working in your community.









Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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2 thoughts on “Earth to Congress: Tomato Paste is Not a Vegetable”

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