Re: “The Conversation: Healthier school lunches have come too far to turn back now” (June 8):

As president of American Agri-Women, I know the facts are on Sen. Susan Collins’ side.

The fresh white potato is affordable and nutritious, yet it’s the only vegetable or fruit excluded by the federal government from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC.

The federal government’s own dietary guidelines for Americans state that we are not getting enough potassium and fiber in our diets. Guess what vegetable is rich in both? The potato.

In fact, potatoes have more potassium than bananas, which are commonly associated with that nutrient, and a medium baked potato provides 15 percent of the recommended daily fiber. Also a good source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free, sodium-free and can be prepared in countless healthy ways.

Sen. Collins’ bipartisan amendment, which was adopted with only one dissenting vote in the Appropriations Committee, prohibited the purchase of potatoes with added fats, sugar or oil, such as french fries or potato chips, but would allow consumers to buy fresh potatoes.

The reporter also failed to note that Rep. Chellie Pingree, described as a “farmer and a mother,” actually spoke on the House floor in support of a similar amendment to put potatoes back in the WIC program.

The ultimate irony is that federal government regulations currently allow potatoes to be purchased using a WIC voucher at a farmers market, but not at a local grocery store. Using a WIC voucher, a mother can, however, buy iceberg lettuce, which is far less nutritious than potatoes, in either place.

It is not surprising that Sen. Collins’ common-sense approach garnered strong, bipartisan support.

Sue McCrum

president, American Agri-Women

Mars Hill