Those Democrats. They just won't drop that ridiculous “pizza is not a vegetable” thing. Fox News reports that Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, has proposed legislation that would stop pizza being counted as a vegetable in public school lunches. The SLICE (School Lunch Improvements for Children's Education) Act also would allow the federal government to set nutritional standards for school lunches.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a similar rule that would have prevented pizza from being counted as a vegetable in meals, but Congress succumbed to lobbying from the frozen-food industry and blocked it. As a result, frozen-pizza manufacturers are still able to have their product counted as a “vegetable” in public school lunches because it contains tomato paste. (See also: “ketchup is a vegetable,” from the Ronald Reagan days.)

In addition, Congress swallowed the frozen-pizza industry's claim that each pizza slice contains a half-cup of tomato paste, which is what makes it qualify as a serving of vegetable; in fact, 1/8 of a cup is more like it.

Some Republicans argued that the government has no right to tell children what to eat, even though government is preparing their lunches (try that one on your moms, kids).

Rep. Polis claims to have nothing against pizza in school lunches, but says that it should not be considered a vegetable, especially because it also contains sugar, salt and large amounts of fats and carbohydrates, which aren't so great with childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise. He says he is simply seeking “sensible nutrition standards” for pizza in the meals children eat at schools.

“Pizza has a place in school meals,” he said in a statement. “But equating it with broccoli, carrots and celery seriously undermines this nation's efforts to support children's health and their ability to learn through better school nutrition.”

“Agribusinesses should never dictate the quality of school meals,” added Polis, a businessman himself who was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and one of the Top 10 young entrepreneurs by Success magazine. “Big food companies have their priorities, which include selling cheap, unhealthy foods at high profits.”

The SLICE Act would restore the USDA's authority to implement healthful standards to pizza in public schools in three ways:

  • Allow the USDA to accurately count 1/8 of a cup of tomato paste as 1/8 of a cup, instead of half a cup, which qualifies pizza as a vegetable;
  • Allow the USDA to implement science-based sodium-reduction targets; and,
  • Allow the USDA to set a whole-grain requirement.

What's that crazy Colorado hippie gonna ask for next, that schools serve actual peas and carrots? Guess this is what happens when you have a metrosexual Abe Lincoln in the White House who likes fancy foods like kale, cauliflower and arugula.

Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.

LA Weekly