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USDA seeks to limit potatoes presence in school meals

baked_potatoOnce a staple of Americans’ meat-and-potato diets, the lowly spud may soon be banned from school cafeterias. But not without a fight.

A recently proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would eliminate white potatoes from federally subsidized school breakfasts and limit their serving at lunch has set off another round of protests about the federal government’s school nutrition regulations.

The USDA proposal would limit starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans, to a total of one cup per week for federally subsidized school lunches.

The potato industry is now promoting its product as a “true gateway vegetable” that could lead kids to broccoli, according to the Wall Street Journal.

I’m not convinced about that, but Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, which is one of the leading states producing potatoes, noted at a hearing that the spud contains more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which hasn’t been banned.

As the potato industry mobilizes its lobbyists, some school nutritionists are also defending the spud. The Gooding school district in Idaho, which won a USDA award for schools that feed children healthier meals and promote physical activity, will lose its twice-a-week potato bar, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Nutrition director Anji Baumann told the newspaper that the popular bar includes locally grown spuds with themed toppings such as Mexican, with salsa and refried beans; and pizza, with low-fat mozzarella, low-sodium Canadian bacon and veggies.

NSBA has other issues with the Child Nutrition law, which was reauthorized last year and sets new standards for all foods sold at schools.

NSBA’s advocacy department reports that at a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education witnesses from school food authorities and other providers warned of plate waste and reduced participation in the school breakfast and lunch programs. The potato folks are also warning that this is what happens when you replace the spud.

In the meantime, a baked potato is sounding like an awfully good dinner…

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 23rd, 2011|Categories: Governance, Wellness, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

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