For the first time in years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reworked nutrition rules for school meals. The effort was billed as a step in the fight against childhood obesity, and part of Michelle Obama’s pet Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

New rules will limit the number of calories served and require schools to offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, among other changes.

All this sounds fantastic, but the details do not bear up under scrutiny.

Gridlock and ineffective leadership meant the new rules will not touch one of students’ favorite sources of fat, salt and starch. French fries were saved, and remain on the “vegetables” list, through the efforts of lawmakers and lobbyists.

Worse, another food of which schools will be able to serve more, because of its designation as a vegetable, is pizza. Yes, that doughy, greasy, cheesy treat covered in fatty pepperoni is, according to the federal government, a vegetable by virtue of the dollop of tomato sauce on each slice.

As always, it is the parents’ job to teach their children how to eat healthful foods in sensible portions. Now, however, the federal government has forced them to also explain why pizza and french fries — frowned upon as junk foods in their health class textbooks — are considered vegetables in the cafeteria.

— New Ulm Journal, Minnesota, Jan. 29

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