Congress Puts Potatoes On Menu for WIC

WASHINGTON (AP) -
Dennis Hess packs potatoes at his farm in Litiz, Pa. It’s another political victory for the popular potato. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Dennis Hess packs potatoes at his farm in Litiz, Pa. It’s another political victory for the popular potato. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s another political victory for the popular potato.

For the first time, low-income women would be able to pay for white potatoes with government-subsidized vouchers issued by the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, known as WIC.

The potato provision is part of a massive spending bill Congress is considering before the end of the year.

White potatoes have been excluded from WIC since fruits and vegetables were first allowed under the program in 2009. It’s not that white potatoes themselves aren’t nutritious, but they’re often used to make french fries, which are usually fried or baked in unhealthy fats and oils.

The Institute of Medicine had recommended that they be excluded, saying WIC recipients already eat enough white potatoes.

The potato industry has aggressively lobbied for inclusion, saying it’s not as much about sales as the perception that potatoes aren’t as nutritious as other vegetables. Lawmakers from roughly 40 potato-growing states have been pushing for several years to include the potato in the program.

The potato’s advocates argue that it provides potassium, dietary fiber and folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, which can be helpful for expectant women. They say it is also economical, which could help low-income mothers stretch their dollars.