health and nutrition
BACKGROUNDThe combined nutritional and economic value of potatoes can be found in no other vegetable. The National Potato Council actively supports responsible public policy that enables consumers to make healthy meal choices while working within their budgets. Federal regulations that would impose arbitrary restrictions or limits on potatoes, contradictory to the government’s evidence-based nutritional guidelines, would result in a negative impact for growers and consumers alike.
School Meal Program Regulations
NPC supports giving local school systems the flexibility to deliver healthy meal options to school children within their operating budgets. In 2011, NPC, state potato organizations and U.S. potato growers won a long and hard-fought victory in their efforts to defend the potato against USDA’s proposed school meal program regulations. USDA’s proposed regulations would have limited the total servings of starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, green peas and lima beans) in the National School Lunch Program to one cup per week, and prohibited them from serving these vegetables altogether in the School Breakfast Program.
A survey of school food service professionals revealed concerns about USDA’s proposed school meal regulations, with directors anticipating increased costs, reduced program participation, and no improvements on children’s health. Bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, led by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado), resulted in approval of an amendment prohibiting the use of USDA funds to implement school meal rules that would set maximum serving limits on vegetables in school meal programs.
USDA’s final rule, issued in January 2012, did not include maximum white potato serving limits in the lunch program as originally proposed, and removed the proposed prohibition in the breakfast program; however NPC has voiced concern that USDA’s final rule still falls short of giving schools the flexibility they need in the breakfast program.
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
In December 2007, USDA proposed making all fruits and vegetables – except fresh white potatoes – eligible for vouchers from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
NPC is concerned that USDA’s proposed ban on fresh white potatoes ignores the federal government’s own nutritional recommendations based on the latest dietary science. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010 DGA) recommends increased consumption of starchy vegetables by women and young children in order to supply them the essential nutrients – including potassium, fiber and folate – they need to stay healthy. At $.10 per ½ cup serving, potatoes are the most affordable item found in the produce aisle and would allow participants to stretch their WIC vouchers and allow mothers to more economically feed their families.
The potato industry urges USDA to reconsider the nutritional and economic evidence to support the inclusion of fresh white potatoes in the WIC voucher program. With the majority of Americans not meeting their nutritional targets, USDA should be encouraging increased consumption of all vegetables and fruits.