While new nutrition standards for school lunches favor the inclusion of more fruits and vegetables generally, potatoes are an exception.
In particular, the proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published Jan. 13 in the Federal Register, states that a maximum of one cup of starchy vegetables may be served weekly, with no distinction made as to if the vegetables are processed or fresh.
The proposed rule is another prick to the potato, which suffered an earlier insult when USDA officials excluded white potatoes from Women, Infant and Children fruit and vegetable vouchers. All states have offered the vouchers since 2009.
The rule singles out âdark green and orange vegetablesâ for increases, but limits starchy vegetables, most notably potatoes â a popular item on school menus, mainly processed into French fries and tater tots â to one cup a week âto encourage students to try new vegetables in place of the familiar starchy ones,â according to the rule.
The USDA does not track the use of fresh versus processed foods in schools.
John Keeling, president of the National Potato Council, Washington, D.C., said the restrictions on potatoes were misguided. Starchy vegetables were the only group of fruits and vegetables given an absolute limit by the proposed rule.
âEverything else is considered based on whatever its nutritional contribution is, so we think to single out potatoes is ridiculous,â he said.
He said the proposed rule would be costly for schools to implement.
âThey are mandating that they take out a vegetable that provides nutrients but is relatively cheaper than the ones they are trying to force the replacement on,â he said.
He said the USDA is assuming that by taking away potatoes, that the children will have no choice but eat other vegetables and fruit.
âThere is just no science to support that kind of substitution effect occurs.â