I’m Mr. Potato Head…

May 9th, 2014 at 9:39 am

And I fully endorse this blog post:

I know, it seems goofy to fight about potatoes, but Catherine Rampell makes very important points about an on-going dust-up involving white potatoes and WIC, a nutritional support program for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and infants.  If this debate bounces the wrong way, it will represent a serious and potentially far-reaching defeat for nutritional science over special interest bucks.

The Institute of Medicine provides the program with unbiased information on what low-income families are best off consuming with their WIC resources.

The Institute found that starchy foods like white potatoes, while nutritious, were already well-represented in poor families’ diets. (Sweet potatoes and yams were not, so they are available through WIC.)

Needless to say, the tuber lobby is unhappy about this. The amount of money at stake through WIC is relatively tiny — small potatoes, you might say…but spud farmers believe excluding white potatoes from WIC is bad for marketing and therefore gives the entire white potato industry a black eye.

Last week 20 senators sent an angry letter to the Agriculture Department secretary, demanding an immediate end to anti-tater bigotry, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine, where the top agricultural commodity is potatoes) reportedly will soon offer a legislative amendment mandating the inclusion of white potatoes in WIC…

Pediatrics professor Irwin Redlener efficiently summarized the threat: “Once the door is open to undermine the program this way, by putting it in the hands of the political machinery rather than scientific recommendations, it will be very hard to reverse it.”

We’ve already got this problem big time on climate—do we really need on nutritional as well?

My CBPP colleagues have more if you’d like to read up on this.


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2 comments in reply to "I’m Mr. Potato Head…"

  1. D. C. Sessions says:

    If you think the potato industry has political clout, wait until they open the breach and then watch what the soft drink industry does. (This is basically how junk food became a huge part of SNAP.)

  2. Robert Buttons says:

    The root problem is the government getting involved at all. Once the camel’s nose is under the tent, there is no end to the nanny state. End WIC. Problem solved.