In a couple of months, the menu for millions of elementary and secondary students are due for an overhaul as the USDA prepares new rules designed to make school lunches healthier. Based on a report from the Institute of Medicine, the USDA is considering new guidelines for school districts that would call for reducing the use of white potatoes, in favor of dishing out at least a half cup of leafy green vegetables, orange veggies and legumes each week.
The industry is concerned that a decision by the USDA to embrace the IOM's recommendations would send a message to parents who shop for groceries that other vegetables carry a higher value than the potato. But the industry is used to a good fight. For example, when the low-carb craze was wreaking havoc on the potato, bread, pasta and rice industries, the USPB launched a $4.4 million "Healthy Potato Campaign." Within 18 months, that effort made a dent in negative attitudes towards potatoes—29 percent of participants in a survey had negative views after the campaign, down from 33 percent before, USPB’s Meredith Myers said.
John Keeling, the NPC's CEO, said his group has hired dietitians as advisers and will be presenting data to the USDA's food nutrition service that will be putting together the proposal later this year.
But the folks at IOM say they're not asking kids to stay away from potatoes altogether. Instead, they're recommending the schools initiate a reduction in the level of potatoes served during the week and increase other leafy green and orange vegetables and beans.