Chris Voigt’s attempt to shed light on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s snubbing of potatoes employed comical tactics — including YouTube videos with him sliding down a hallway slathered in mash potatoes and dyeing his hair with purple potato juice.

Voigt, the executive director of the Washington Potato Commission, Moses Lake, is The Potato Man of the Year award recipient. Voigt received the annual award, from The Packer and its sister publication The Grower magazine, in conjunction with the National Potato Council, Jan. 8 at the council’s annual banquet in Las Vegas. Grower editor Vicky Boyd made the presentation.

Voigt’s 60-day campaign, 20 Potatoes a Day, featured a strict potatoes-only diet, to demonstrate that potatoes are healthy, and should be included in the Women, Infants and Children program for mothers. Although his diet ended in late November, his crusade continues.

“There's still work to do,” he said at the banquet. “We still have to convince the USDA that the diet is successful and the potato is worthy to be in the WIC program and the school lunch program.”

Voigt and a group of industry leaders plan to meet with the USDA in mid-February to discuss the topic.

Grower-members of the National Potato Council also plan to talk to the USDA during the council's legislative meeting in late February.

At the same time, the Washington Potato Commission has a Voter Choice link on its website so Voigt's followers can submit a letter to the USDA about reinstating potatoes to the WIC program.

He's also encouraging potato associations in other states to post the link on their websites.

Voigt says the Washington Potato Commission has received numerous recipe requests for the dishes he ate during his diet.

As a result, he says the commission is working with a dietitian and chef to develop a “28 Days of Potatoes” recipe brochure. It will feature healthy preparation tips for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Spud dieter recognized as Potato Man of the Year

Vicky Boyd

Frank Martinez, left, of Saddle View Farms in Royal City, Wash., and former chairman of the Washington State Potato Commission, congratulates Chris Voigt on being named Potato Man of the Year on Jan. 8