The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved legislative report language sponsored by Senator Susan Collins that recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) include fresh, white potatoes in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food package. Currently, white potatoes are the only fresh fruit or vegetable excluded from the WIC food package. The report accompanies the FY2014 Department of Agriculture appropriations bill, which the full committee passed today.
The WIC food package is designed to provide supplemental foods to meet the special nutritional needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and infants and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk. The committee's recommendation, approved today at Senator Collins' request, would allow only fresh, whole, or cut vegetables, including the potato, to be included in WIC. Vegetables with added sugars, fats, or oils would continue to be prohibited.
"The exclusion of fresh white potatoes sends a false message to WIC participants, and to all Americans, that the USDA believes that potatoes are not healthy. The truth is, when prepared properly, the potato is a wonderfully nutritious food that is inexpensive, easy to transport, has a long storage life and can be used in a wide array of recipes," Senator Collins said. "It makes perfect sense to include this healthy, locally grown vegetable in the WIC package."
Potatoes' exclusion from the USDA rule went into effect in December 2009 and is based on recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) report, which uses consumption data that is nearly 20 years old. The subsequently published 2010 DGA, however, recommended five to six cups of starchy vegetables per week for women with a daily caloric intake of 1,800-2,400 calories-an increase of two to three cups per week from the 2005 DGA. The provision would bring the USDA rule for the WIC food package in line to reflect the most recent DGA.
Here are nutritional facts about the white potato that Senator Collins said are often overlooked:
Potatoes have more potassium than bananas, a food commonly associated with this nutrient.
Potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free, and sodium-free, and can be served in countless healthy ways.
A medium baked potato contains 15 percent of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, 27 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin B6, and 28 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C.