America’s Lesson Plan: Pizza is a Veggie!

I’ve developed a visual that I’m going to use when I teach the new rules to my students, many of whom have special needs. I think my terrific graphic about sums up yesterday’s ruling by Congress to amend the regulations to continue to allow pizza to be a vegetable. I’m hoping my students will grasp this, but I don’t think they are going to believe me. I think there will be a lot of dissent.

Let’s develop a lesson plan for teaching this amazing new discovery to students. Ok, here’s an Illinois state learning standard for science:

STATE GOAL 12:  Understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical and earth/space sciences.

Why This Goal Is Important:  This goal is comprised of key concepts and principles in the life, physical and earth/space sciences that have considerable explanatory and predictive power for scientists and non-scientists alike.  These ideas have been thoroughly studied and have stood the test of time.  Knowing and being able to apply these concepts, principles and processes help students understand what they observe in nature and through scientific experimentation.  A working knowledge of these concepts and principles allows students to relate new subject matter to material previously learned and to create deeper and more meaningful levels of understanding.

 A.  Know and apply concepts that explain how living things func­tion, adapt and change.

(Early Elementary)

12.A.1a  Identify and describe the component parts of living things (e.g., birds have feathers; people have bones, blood, hair, skin) and their major functions.

12.A.1b  Categorize living organisms using a variety of observable features (e.g., size, color, shape, backbone).

Mrs Q’s Pizza as a Veggie Lesson Plan – 

Purpose: The students will be learning about how Congress reclassified pizza as a vegetable so that they better understand what pizza is, what a tomato is, and what a vegetable is so that they can make informed choices when eating.

Materials: Pizza from the school cafeteria, fresh tomatoes and other vegetables purchased from grocery store. Pencil and paper. Possible field trips to extend learning and share pizza’s new classification to stakeholders:

1) Visiting a pizza place to learn about how pizza is made and with what ingredients. Inform people making pizzas that pizza is now a veggie! Rejoice!

2) Tour a grocery store to observe how food is categorized and grouped. Tell employees to move pizzas into the produce section because it’s only logical.

Instruction: Getting out our materials, students will observe, feel, touch, and smell both pizza, tomatoes, and random vegetables. Students will write down observations, describing words, and characteristics of pizza, tomatoes and veggies in three columns. Note similarities and differences. Point out to students that pizza is a vegetable now! Write out definitions for pizza and tomatoes and make sure that they are the same. Squelch any student dissent by producing Congress’s new rules and regulations. If Congress and its many lobbyists say it is so, it must be true!

Check for Understanding: Make sure that students understand pizza’s new category by asking them, “Is pizza a vegetable?” Students should say “Yes,” but if they say, “No,” keep repeating the question until they relent.

Encourage students to share their new learning with their parents at home! Tell them that they should say to their parents, “Let’s eat more vegetables! I mean, let’s eat more pizza!” (Let’s really confuse the issue by reminding everyone that actually tomato is a fruit!)

Please consider calling or emailing your representative in the House (find your representative here) and telling them how you feel about the changes to the new healthy rules. When we put corporate interests first, common sense gets lost and kids lose out. We’re going in the wrong direction!

Further reading: Food Politics (nice round up of the coverage).

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24 thoughts on “America’s Lesson Plan: Pizza is a Veggie!

  1. I would have serious doubts about the veggie content of school pizza, and pizza crust is most definitely a bread/starch/carb. But the pizza I make at home, and probably those made by many restaraunts, WOULD qualify as containing a serving a veggies. The tomato paste in my pantry contains exactly one ingredient: tomatoes. Top it with fresh onions, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, diced tomatoes, and there is a full serving a veggies in a couple pieces.

    Pizza, like all the other processed foods, can be anywhere on the spectrum of food vs. junk. If a “chicken” nugget counts as meat, why wouldn’t pizza count as a veggie?

    1. Exactly. The homemade pizza I make at home? Definitely counts as multiple veggie and grain servings. School pizza? Not so much.
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I thought this was funny! “Make sure that students understand pizza’s new category by asking them, “Is pizza a vegetable?” Students should say “Yes,” but if they say, “No,” keep repeating the question until they relent.”

      1. What’s wrong with people in DC can be boiled down to one simple truth, the money that lobbyists buy votes with. Everything that happens in our government is based on who has bought the vote of which Congress-critter and how much they paid for that vote. It doesn’t matter whether it’s D’s or R’s, lobbyist money ruins government.

  3. I agree that this is not science based and does a disservice to students everywhere. Legislators should leave these things to the experts. Still, your post exaggerates the situation which may do a disservice to your readers, even if your intent is comedy, and could cause people to believe something that is not true.

    The USDA (yes, the much reviled USDA) wanted to have 1/2 cup of tomato paste be a vegetable serving, instead of the current rule that has 2 tbsp of paste be a vegetable serving, and the new language would prevent that change. It may in effect make pizza a vegetable for the purposes of school lunch but does not actually say that pizza is a vegetable. This may be complicated by the fact that tomato paste is thicker than sauce – 2 tbsp is actually a serving (so says the label of Hunt’s tomato paste) – and paste is often watered down to make sauce.

    The hyperbole was, it seems, started by Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sure, it makes the whole issue sound more snazzy than it really is, but wouldn’t we be better off talking about what’s actually happening?

    1. I’m trying to make fun of something that has gotten beyond ridiculous! I just can’t believe that 2 TBSPs of tomato paste even got on any of the school pizzas that I ate. There was precious little “sauce” and calling that veggie is just weird. I’m being satirical in my blog post because I didn’t want to write a boring old post for something that is getting a lot of traditional coverage. I don’t think anyone wrote a lesson plan for this kind of thing and I was trying to approach the issue from a fresh perspective to keep people reading. Most people have read about this in papers and on Twitter ad nauseum over the past couple days. Seriously though — how would you explain this to children?

    2. Actually, it’s equally misleading to claim that the USDA wanted to have 1/2 cup of tomato paste be a serving. That’s BS from the food industry lobbyist.

      The requirement was that, for tomato paste on a pizza to be counted as a vegetable, it had to have the same amount as any other vegetable – a half cup.

      A “serving” for purposes of tomato paste use in cooking is not the same thing as a “vegetable serving”, any more than a “serving” of sugar for use in coffee or cooking (and sugar is also derived from a plant) makes it a vegetable serving either.

      NO ONE suggested pizzas with a half cup of paste. That was a misleading rhetorical tactic.

      The requirement is that, to count as a vegetable serving, pizza needs to have a half cup of vegetables, just like anything else As several people have noted, putting more veggies on top would qualify and is what you and I would do if we were cooking and trying to get enough vegetables into our family’s diet.

      The exception means that the requirement for a vegetable serving is different for pizza than for anything else, IMHO because of lobbying $. After all, lobbying is cheaper for food companies than topping pizza with veggies.

  4. Oh the hypocrisy…as a parent, I’m more than a little annoyed with Congress’ decision to continue putting giant food companies above the health of children, but somewhere my eight year old self is smiling.

    In the end, pizza is a crowd pleasing and delicious food, and I don’t know that it will ever be able to be possible to get it off of school menus, so perhaps more emphasis should be placed on raising the quality and decreasing the frequency of the dish. If the pizza made by yourself or Wendy or other people following this discussion could be substituted for that cardboard filler schools try and serve, and if it was limited to once a month, that is pizza I could get behind.

  5. Emailed my congressman. Who also works for the Beef Caucus. (which, as an entirely separate issue, tries to “educate other congress members about the merits of the American beef industry.” you can bet that this caucus doesn’t represent the small ranchers with merely 100 head of cattle….)

  6. Where’s the differentiation??? You forgot to add readiness activities for the students who have little background knowledge of pizza, graphic organizers of pizzas for the IEP and English Language learners, and enrichment work for the students who already know how to make pizza dough from scratch?

  7. I would like to thank you for doing your interview for Channel One News bc that lead me to your blog. When they featured these stories yesterday I was flabbergasted! This lesson plan of yours was hilarious and definitely brightened my morning! Being a Health teacher myself I think I will actually use this lesson plan when we get to our nutrition unit just to point out the ridiculousness of it. Thanks!

  8. *Snort*

    Although, I do like the part about going to the grocery store and touring the produce department. 🙂

    We make pizzas at home – with whole wheat dough, sugar free sauce and freshly grated cheese (not organic, but hey!)

    The last time we made pizzas we talked to our oldest (5.5) about what we could add next time to make our pizza even more nutritious/have more vitamins/be more healthy. Of course we had some silly suggestions, but she started to think about healthy things we could add. And that was what my husband and I wanted – her to think about her food. Maybe she will never eat more than a cheese pizza, but if she thinks about making it the most healthy cheese pizza, I think we’ve done a good job.

  9. I think after all the controversy that has been created about school lunch and the government’s mission to supposedly fix it is a load of bull. They seriously have taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back by letting this happen. Children have a hard enough time identifying some “whole foods” this will make it worse.

    p.s. love the lesson plan, love a good laugh!

  10. I’m just waiting for them to make the all important announcement that ice cream qualifies as a vegetable- after all, most conventional sugar comes from beets!

    I’m pretty sure that I could work it into a whole meal- conventional cows are fed grains and soy, some of which comes through in the milk, the dairy contains protein, and if you top it with a cherry- fruit! There you go, all major food groups in one, vegetarian, and nearly everyone likes it!

  11. Don’t know if anyone pointed this out yet, but there’s a Supreme Court ruling that states tomatoes are vegetables. The decision was made for purposes of commerce because even though scientifically tomatoes are fruits, most people think they are veggies so for trade purposes they are classified as vegetables.

    1. And on this case I’ll continue to ignore the Supreme Court, science isn’t trumped by commerce. I’ll take facts accepted worldwide by scientists over a monetary decision by a group of nine judges any day of the week.

  12. I agree with Wendy: pizza sauce can fill the standard for vegetables if the rest of the product was healthier. How about adding vegetables to the pizza. I’m sure the answer would be that the students may pick them off, thus resulting in wasted money. But, as responsible adults, shouldn’t we at least try? School may be the only place the students can try vegetables and start learning about healthy eating choices.

  13. I am glad you are doing interviews. I heard about you on npr and have taught for years. I have always urged by students to bring thier lunch because the food quailty is so low. The quality an options are unacceptable, especially since for years there were laws on the Texas books preventing teachers from rewarding students with food that had no nutritional value yet in the cafeteria they were serving french toast donuts for breakfast.

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