September 25, 2022

Banning Potatoes From School Lunches?


Many are calling potatoes bad and unhealthy when in reality, it's how they're prepared that makes them unhealthy

Potato chips, french fries and tater tots are not the healthiest way to eat a potato. Many are convinced it’s not the only way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) needs to stop participants of the federal Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) from buying potatoes, recommends the National Academy of Science. The institute also wants to limit the amount of potatoes that are used in school lunches.

Potato growers are fighting back, stating that potatoes are loaded with potassium and vitamin C. Potatoes have more potassium than a banana and just one serving provides about 45 percent of the daily recommended vitamin C.

One Washington man is personally fighting the battle by going on a 60 day, all potato diet. He is doing this to demonstrate that the potato is nutritious. He won’t, however, be heaping on butter and sour cream. Instead he will be seasoning his potatoes with spices and a bit of cooking oil.

The advocates for getting healthy food into school and into homes are not saying they are anti potato. They claim they are just trying to get children to be exposed to and hopefully like a bigger variety of vegetables and whole grains. They are doing this as part of fighting childhood obesity, which has tripled in the last 30 years.

Chris Voigt, head of Washington Potato Commission said, “We’re just really concerned that this is a misconception to the public that potatoes aren’t healthy. The potato isn’t the scourge of the earth. It’s nutrition.”

Despite the efforts made by the Potato Commission, there will an interim ruling by the USDA that bans WIC participants from purchasing any potatoes with the federal dollars. By next year the USDA will make a final ruling on this issue.

The USDA is also expected to release changes to the school lunch programs by the end of the year, which provides breakfast and lunch to nearly 32 million needy kids. These schools will be required to follow the new rulings.

Jean Daniel, spokeswoman for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, said that whatever the USDA decides, potatoes won’t disappear altogether. The WIC program has not been updated for nearly 30 years and studies are showing that leafy greens and other veggies need to be added to these diets.

Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission says we don’t need to single out the potato. It’s like any food, you just need to eat properly balanced meals and always have a variety of fruits and veggies.