A war on potatoes? Update: Poll fixed

posted at 9:21 am on October 22, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

When the government blocked the use of food stamps and other nutritional aid for cigarettes and alcohol, most people gave it at least tacit support.  The idea behind food stamps and welfare wasn’t to feed addictions, but to feed people.  Now, however, the government has decided to dictate choices on food, too — beginning with the potato.  Potato farmers have begun protesting a decision by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to bar participants in its food-aid programs from buying spuds at the grocery store:

With that in mind, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recommended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture stop participants of the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC, from buying potatoes with federal dollars. The institute also called for the USDA-backed school lunch program to limit use of potatoes.

Under an interim rule, the USDA agreed to bar WIC participants from buying potatoes with their federal dollars. Potatoes are the only vegetable not allowed. Next year, the agency will roll out a final rule on the WIC program, which last year served 9.3 million children and pregnant and breast-feeding women considered at risk for malnutrition.

The WIC program is a supplemental food program, and the determination was made that consumption of white potatoes was already adequate, said Christine Stencel, spokeswoman for the Institute of Medicine.

“The recommendation was made to encourage consumption of other fruits and vegetables,” she said.

At the same time, the USDA will act to reduce potatoes in school lunches subsidized through its programs.  Given that the government actually does the preparation of the lunches themselves (in the form of public school cafeterias and district kitchens), that’s less of an intrusion on choice than a strategic decision on menu offerings.  But given that schools or their contractors control the preparation, perhaps it might make more sense to focus on a healthier preparation than omitting a perfectly acceptable source of nutrition altogether.

Potato farmers point out that their crop does have significant nutritional value.  Potatoes, while starchy (as are carrots and other root vegetables), contain high levels of potassium and Vitamin C, both essential elements in a healthy diet.  The problems associated with potatoes are more accurately assigned to the manner in which they are cooked — deep friend or covered in cheese and sour cream. In fact, buying potatoes at the store usually means better preparation than one finds in chain-store restaurants.

Most offensively, the program treats subsidy recipients as if they cannot make their own food choices for themselves.  People may tend to write this off by saying that aid recipients aren’t entitled to the money and that the USDA can set whatever condition it likes on the service, and that’s true.  WIC and food-stamp recipients can buy potatoes with their own cash, too.  But when a large number of Americans start receiving federal subsidies on health insurance — subsidies that will apply to anyone in the health exchanges with an annual salary of $88,000 or less, which is the 62nd percentile for annual household income in the US — what dictates will then be permissible?  Smoking, alcohol, food?  All of these impact health, and health-care costs.

Take the poll — should the USDA bar the use of WIC funds to buy potatoes?

Update: Poll fixed — sorry!

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I don’t know what to say about this–it is so wrong on so many levels.It seems to me that the country is being run by crazy people.

DDT on October 22, 2010 at 5:31 PM


100 gram samples

Potato – 1g Sugars
Sweet – Potato 6g Sugars

Potato – 3g Protein
Sweet Potato – 2g Protein

Carbs – Equal

Do I want our daughter eating baked sweet potato fries or baked russet fries? I, and she, would rather the russet, thank you.

A potato has more calories per 100 grams, (3 to be exact), but both the Yam and the Potato contain the same number of calories from fat, 1. The potato is a more efficient foodstuff for growing children than the yam, period, exclamation point.

How many women in the WIC program have a deep fryer at home and are dunking potatoes in 350 degree oil, I suspect very very very few. Most are baking or boiling potatoes and when baked or boiled, a potato is a pretty top notch veg when it comes to price versus energy gained and when compared to the Obama’s suggestion of organic sweet potatoes, the sweet potato loses on most fronts.

This is political, pure and simple.

If they can force you to “change”, they will, not because of the benefits of the “change” for you; but merely they want to condition us to “change” when they dictate it.

Jason Coleman on October 22, 2010 at 5:38 PM

Like the Feds need to give Idaho another reason to despise them?

Most recently, the wolves.

Now, attacking the Potato?

Idaho is the most unscrewed up state in the Nation that I’ve seen. Even the Democrats act like Conservatives (which is why they keep getting elected).

I can defend my property up there, and it will be a safe haven from the disaster that I live in down here in Los Angeles County.

Can’t wait to move full time.

Jimmy Doolittle on October 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM

BTW, schools aren’t putting french fries in a deep fryer either. The labor, cost of oil, and volume prevent a school from using a deep fryer much at all.

Most shoestring fries served in school cafeterias are cut, blanched, spiced and frozen. Then packed in 5 lb bags, a five lb bag fills 2 full size commercial sheet pans. Twenty pans on a rolling rack into a standing oven.

Fast food joints keep fryers rolling because their customers roll in over a longer period of time and the fryer is the fastest and tastiest way to produce the product in an “on-demand” setting.

School need their product to come out all at once. Using a deep fryer for 300 kids showing up at once would require a fryer with 15 baskets and over 75 gallons of fryer oil. Oil that would have to be heated and filtered daily and changed every 3 days minimum.

Baking them, the way schools do, requires a box cutter and the turn of a dial, no messy cleanup, no waste of heat energy, no chance that a cook dumps 350 degree oil on themselves, and everything comes out on time.

The “schools” angle, is complete BS.

Now I know, someone will say that they’ve seen the frys at their kids school and they can “see” that they’ve been in a fryer. That “wet” look you see, is because a smart cafeteria cook will spray hot baked french fries with oil from a spray bottle to make them look like they just came out of the fryer. They haven’t.

Jason Coleman on October 22, 2010 at 6:01 PM

Idaho is a red state. Just sayin’.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on October 22, 2010 at 6:04 PM

They’re attacking my Irish culture and heritage. I am sorely offended.

Why does the government hate the Irish?

And Meso-Americans…

karl9000 on October 22, 2010 at 6:44 PM

What if the potato and other starchy vegetables were reclassified as the equivalent of whole grain foods? I bet peas, corn, and potatoes outperform oatmeal, whole wheat bread, etc. We know they are healthier than white rice and bread already. Nutritionists, let us know!

spudmom on October 22, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Eggs were the enemy for the longest time. Now they are deemed healthy again. The govt. always needs a cause to keep the people fearful and under control.

Potatoes are filling and paired with a little protein are a great source of energy for an extended period of time. Eat rice and you’re hungry again in an hour. Regardless, everyone’s body is different. Some like and need a meat diet while others like me tend towards vegetables and grains. It’s a mistake to say one diet fits all.

mistythestripper on October 22, 2010 at 7:40 PM

They’re attacking my Irish culture and heritage. I am sorely offended.

Why does the government hate the Irish?

karl9000 on October 22, 2010 at 6:44 PM

Good question. I’d demand reparations, but I’m a conservative and don’t ride that horse.

Idaho is a red state. Just sayin’.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on October 22, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Payback? November can’t arrive quickly enough – in 2010 and in 2012.

IrishEyes on October 22, 2010 at 9:48 PM

Potatoes are starchy, but otherwise healthy. Frying them in healthy fats or covering them in cheese or sour cream just makes them even better for you.

If you accept government funds, then you gotta let them tell you how to eat. That’s why we have to fight back against government control of our health care and food supply. The USDA shouldn’t be the ones running this program, though. The USDA doesn’t promote healthy eating, it promotes buying products of US agriculture. They have no business setting the food guidelines because they have completely counterproductive ideas of healthy eating. But it’s apparent that even the NAS is getting it on the action. Potatoes are the cheapest way to get a lot of reasonably nutritionally dense calores into people.

Dan Minardi on October 22, 2010 at 11:22 PM

This is about the Dems not wanting poor people to store food. Even among people on welfare “prepping” for disasters (like a financial collapse) is becoming popular and potatoes are a popular item because they can be stored long term and a 10-20lb bag can be under $5 in some places. Much more bang for the buck.

Much like the bans on bottled water Dems want these are designed really to make the poor so dependent on municipal services that they can never allow the government to lose power. When you can’t store food and water you’re at the mercy of the Feds, and you end up crowded into a Super Dome in an emergency.

Rob Taylor on October 23, 2010 at 3:50 PM

My kids (10 & 12) just became self declared Republicans when they read he report. They can’t believe the hypocritical and dictatorial attitude of a guy who smokes cigarettes. btw they don’t love french fries, they love plain boiled redskins with fresh parsley.

Rea1ityCheck on October 24, 2010 at 1:59 PM

I haven’t commented over here for some time, but this makes me crazy. There are millions of people that cannot tolerate wheat nor any of it’s by-products. Instead of wheat products they can have potatoes and rice. This is simply one more punishment meated out (pun intended)to a red state. The food pyramid needs to be turned upside down. It does not promote health.

24K lady on October 24, 2010 at 4:56 PM

I would vote for Mr. Potato Head over Mr. Obama.

NoDonkey on October 22, 2010 at 9:28 AM

Really ? You would vote for Al Sharpton ? Are you nutz ??


cableguy615 on October 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM