(From The Packer.)
The Washington State Potato Commission and others are ramping up efforts to get potatoes added to the list of fruits and vegetables available to needy women and children through a federal program.
The Moses Lake-based commission, members of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association and others have penned a letter to United Fresh president Tom Stenzel urging more pressure on the government to add potatoes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, according to a commission news release.
Potatoes were left off the WIC list following a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, which argued that WIC recipients already ate a large number of russet and other "white" potatoes. Sweet potatoes are on the WIC list.
"Such an exclusion creates iniquities within the fruit and vegetable community, and prevents WIC participants from using federal dollars to purchase white potatoes while still allowing them to use the same federal dollars to purchase many fruits and vegetables that contribute little or no nutritional value to their or their children's diets," part of the letter reads.
John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based National Potato Council, said the industry continues to pressure Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add spuds to the WIC list.
On the immediate to-do list are filing responses for a USDA question period on the issue, which ends Feb. 1, Keeling said.
When potatoes will eventually make it on the list is hard to predict, he said.
"I can't really handicap it, but we're committed to getting it done," Keeling said.
Lee Frankel, president and chief executive officer of United Potato Growers of America, Salt Lake City, said potatoes are a perfect fit for WIC: nutritionally, they provide a huge bang for the buck.
By not being on the list, he said, recipients may get the false impression that there's something nutritionally deficient about them.