NPC EVENT INTENSIFIES PRO-POTATO PRESSURE

Published online: Oct 12, 2011 Seed Potatoes
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Doris Demers, the nutrition program director for York and Kittery schools, had a blunt response today when asked about proposed federal guidelines limiting white potato servings as part of the federally funded school lunch program.

"It's ridiculous," Demers said, adding that three York and Kittery schools today featured baked potato bars full of healthy topping choices such as chili, broccoli and beans.

Demers participated in an event at the National Press Club in Washington held by the National Potato Council.

The council released a survey contending that of 245 school food service professionals surveyed, only 5 percent believe the new guidelines will improve the quality of children's health while 60 percent or more think the rules would increase food costs, lead to decreased student participation in school lunch programs and result in more wasted food.

That's not the position held by a number of national and Maine health care and nutrition advocates, who say potatoes and other starchy vegetables contribute to obesity and laud as sound science the proposed federal guidelines limiting starchy vegetables while increasing green and orange vegetables.

But the potato council, along with legislative allies like GOP Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, is trying to persuade-or potentially force, through legislation-the U.S. Department of Agriculture to alter the rules before they go into effect later this year.

Collins attended today's potato council event, saying that if the guidelines go into effect as written it would mean that a school that serves a medium baked potato on Monday could not serve an ear of freshly grown corn later in the week. Collins also noted that Demers has told her that York schools serve french fries just twice a month, but that they are baked french fries one day and sweet potato fries the other day.

SOURCE: Kennebec Journal

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