During CNN’s New Hampshire Town Hall recently with the Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Harvard student Thomas Satterthwaite asked perhaps the funniest and most insightful question anyone has asked anyone running for president in my lifetime.
His question was so telling of our current culture, he should earn a reward simply for asking it. Satterthwaite asked Klobuchar why she at one point asked the FDA to classify frozen pizza as a vegetable.
“In 2010, you petitioned the USDA to keep frozen pizzas in school lunches, therefore allowing for the sauce to be counted as a vegetable in order to support the business of a Minnesota frozen foods company. Amid the obesity epidemic that has plagued this country for decades, to what extent do you believe that the financial interests of corporations in your home state should outweigh the health of America’s next generation?,” asked the student to the senator in the hot seat.
Quickly, Klobuchar gave the typical political answer of saying that she regretted her letter to the FDA, and said she only did so to protect the jobs of the food plant workers who’d potentially be out of a job if the schools in question had switched to healthier options and dare say real vegetables.
“What does that mean in the context of this crowd?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked while gesturing to the audience of predominantly college students, saying in jest “they think frozen pizza is a food group.” Cuomo quickly drove attention back to the topic asking Klobuchar “do you think they should be allowed in school lunches?”
Klobuchar replied, “I didn’t think that frozen pizza with tomato sauce on it should be counted as a vegetable…”
While at face value this whole question may seem ridiculous, it shows the contradicting nature of public stances regarding issues such as childhood obesity and public sector actions such as counting frozen pizza as a vegetable.
While Klobuchar defended her position at the time as a way to defend jobs in her state while kids at public schools ate frozen pizza, she eventually came out against her previous stance only after it became public and concerned parents across the country.
What is worse is that in public school districts across the country, school districts will parse through nutritional standards to lower barriers for negotiations so they can contract out school lunches to the lowest contractor possible. Several years ago, this issue really hit the public’s conscious when journalist Charlie LeDuff discussed his outrage after learning his child and her classmates were served “orange drink” instead of actual orange juice because the public school district wanted to cut costs.
Across the country today, the private sector is stepping up to bring delicious and nutritious meals into public schools out of a desire to help America’s children, especially in districts where most students are on a free or reduced lunch plan.
What Klobuchar’s pizza dilemma shows is that if you want to have your kids eat healthily, the only way to ensure it is to find ways to provide it yourself or get involved with your local school board or PTA to prevent situations like this one from happening because a politician attempted to classify frozen pizza as a vegetable.