Why Pizza And Fries Can Be Claimed As Vegetables Through School Lunch Programs

Episode 112 1h 6m


*For context, this episode was recorded in March 2020.

Food is political, whether we like it or not.

From the subsidies used to grow the crops that produce our massive amounts of ultra-processed foods, to school lunches, to the meals being served on our own dinner tables and even in the White House, the state of our food system is impacted by policy on an incredible scale.

My guest on today’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy has played a very positive role in trying to impact those policies for the better to make America healthier as a whole. Sam Kass is the former Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition in the Obama administration.

Currently, Sam is a Partner at Acre Venture Partners. Acre is a venture capital fund investing in the future of food with a mission to improve human and environmental health in the food system. The fund focuses on early-stage, highly disruptive impactful companies in the food system focused on agriculture, supply chain, and consumer. Sam is also the author of Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World.

After jumping into the food industry and being stunned by the compromise of health for flavor, Sam knew there had to be a better way. We kick off our talk with his personal experience in using food to create health instead of destroy it, and how that led him to connect with the Obama family. He shares what it was like to work with the Obamas in many wellness-focused ways—from workouts in the morning to policy meetings in the afternoon and preparing dinner in the evening.

Sam and I get into the topic of how Big Food influences school food programs and the areas that still need some drastic improvements if we want to help the next generation achieve a better relationship with food. Sam shares his ideas for the middle ground that could overcome some of the biggest hurdles, like on outdated infrastructure and tight budgets, to bring fresher, higher quality food to our kids.

We also discuss how other government policies are continuing to fail our food system and the many ways we can get involved to change that. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, I hope you’ll tune in.

Check out Sam’s cookbook, “Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World: A Cookbook” here.


This episode is brought to you by AG1, Thrive Market, and Theragun. The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast works with a select group of sponsors to allow for ongoing production and allow it to be zero-cost to anyone who wishes to listen to and watch the podcast.

Topics Covered

  • Sam’s experience training as a chef in Vienna and how it led him to think about agriculture and food policy

    (4:23 - 8:34)

  • How Sam began cooking for the Obama family and his experience working in the White House

    (7:50 - 12:24)

  • The passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and the challenges around school lunch reform

    (13:12 - 16:05)

  • How tomato sauce, French fries, and pizza came to be considered vegetables in schools

    (16:46 - 19:39)

  • The impactfulness of the “Community Eligibility Program” provision in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act which allows schools to serve free breakfast to students

    (20:17 - 25:24)

  • The current administration’s attempts to roll back standards put into place through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

    (26:19 - 31:26)

  • The reason why junk food is more affordable than healthy food

    (36:00 - 41:07)

  • Why government is not well positioned to change our food system

    (37:53 - 43:00)

  • Innovation in the food industry

    (39:53 - 45:00)

  • The negative feedback loop between food production and climate change

    (43:29 - 48:36)

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Ep. 112 - Why Pizza And Fries Can Be Claimed As Vegetables Through School Lunch Programs