Here’s Why a New, Healthier School Lunch Can Still Be a Slice From Domino’s

If food companies reformulate their products, should the healthier versions be allowed in schools?
Jun 10, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

The new federal school lunch standards are remaking the cafeteria line into a place where there is less refined flour, less fat, less salt, and generally more healthful food. Yet somehow there’s a familiar symbol from the old regime of public school lunches that manages to both look the same and conform to all the standards: a slice of Domino’s pizza.

But this isn’t your tomato-paste-is-a-vegetable type of pie. As The New York Times’ Michael Moss explains, Domino’s is selling more of its Smart Slice thanks to the regulations—it’s one of the few old-guard lunch menu items that’s both regularly available and that passes muster with the new rules. The crust is 51 percent whole wheat, and there’s one-third less fat in both the cheese and the pepperoni.

“But here’s the thing,” Moss says in an animated video about the Smart Slice. “The Domino’s trucks, and Domino’s delivery people, and Domino’s insulated pizza boxes, and Domino’s placards hung in the lunch lines all help to imprint the company’s red-and-blue brand on the brains of students.” And the Smart Slice isn’t available at your local Domino’s location—it’s a school-only affair.

So not only is Domino’s still able to develop a loyal following of pizza eaters in school cafeterias, but the Smart Slice also works to create a false sense that the company’s pizza is healthy.

That’s why there’s a push to block branding from lunch lines. Meanwhile, other brands that may have been pushed out by the new school lunch standards are working to reformulate their own products to keep students hooked on their brands.