I am disappointed in your editorial opposing the Maine congressional delegation’s efforts to reverse the ban on fresh potatoes in the WIC program (“Our View: Don’t change WIC list for Maine potato farmers,” Jan. 28).
As a former president of the National Potato Council and owner of a family-run potato farm in Exeter, I am very concerned that the federal government is telling the public that potatoes are unhealthy and deserve to be left out of a major nutrition program.
Oversight of WIC is very much within the authority of our elected representatives in Congress, many of whom understand there is no scientific basis for keeping nutritionally rich potatoes out of the program.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to make all fresh fruits and vegetables eligible for purchase with WIC vouchers. That is, every item in the produce aisle except for fresh potatoes.
Your editorial argues that nutrition policy should be left up to the nutrition scientists. Well, let’s see what the nutritionists say: The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women eat 5 cups of starchy vegetables per week, and that children up to age 5 eat up to 4 cups of starchy vegetables per week.
According to the most recent government data, women are eating half as many starchy vegetables as recommended by the federal government, and young children are coming up short as well.
The USDA based its potato ban on a 2005 Institute of Medicine report, outdated nutritional guidelines and consumption data from the mid-1990s. With most Americans underconsuming fresh fruits and vegetables, the USDA should focus on reversing that trend instead of relying on old data and obsolete recommendations to rationalize a ban on nutrient-rich potatoes.