Potato Industry Works For WIC Inclusion

Published online: Oct 18, 2006 USPB
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The potato industry is working towards achieving inclusion of potatoes in a proposed rule revision to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Women, Infants and Children Programs Food Package. The proposed rule adds fresh fruits and vegetables to the approved food package for the first time; however, it specifically excludes white potatoes.

The United States Potato Board submitted comments in response to the proposed rule, which included scientifically based research highlighting the exceptional nutritional content of potatoes and why white potatoes would be a highly beneficial addition to the recipient's food basket. This research will serve as the foundation for the potato industry to aggressively move its position forward.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to increase consumption of all fruits and vegetable and for the WIC program to become aligned with the 2005 dietary guidelines," said Linda McCashion, public relations vice president for the USPB. "The research we provided details why potatoes are a natural fit for the program."

The National Potato Council will also be submitting comments and previously activated the Congressional Potato Caucus in submitting a request to USDA to include potatoes in the new package. The industry has gained support from United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association, both influential produce associations that advocate in their positions that all fruits and vegetables should be included in the rule revisions.

If included, potatoes would be on the approved food list of a program that, in fiscal year 2005, received $3.6 billion in federal funds. WIC provides some eight million low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, along with their infants and children up to age five who are considered at nutrition risk, with supplemental food.

The letter the USPB submitted highlighted how potatoes could be a major benefit to WIC and its recipients: 1) White potatoes contain key nutrients currently consumed in inadequate amounts by Americans. 2) White potatoes can be a bridge to eating other vegetables. 3) White potatoes may help to break down barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption. 4) White potatoes are economical and their inclusion would maximize WIC program dollars. 5) White potatoes are recognized, prepared and well-liked by virtually every socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic group -- they are America's favorite vegetable.