WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) has vowed to protect schools from a flawed regulation of starchy vegetables proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Snowe, who applauded House-passed language in June directing USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue a new, less costly rule updating nutritional standards for the national school breakfast and lunch programs, pledged to work with her Senate colleagues to include similar language in the Senate’s version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill when it comes to the floor for consideration.
Senator Snowe said:
“USDA’s proposed rule limiting potato consumption to just one serving per week in our schools is based on flawed nutritional and economic science. Depriving our schools of nutritious and cost effective student breakfast and lunch options as we grapple with both an obesity epidemic and a soaring national debt topping $14 trillion is the wrong approach to reform. Implementing this proposed rule in its current form would be detrimental to our mutual goals of providing children with nutritious meals and developing life-long healthy eating habits without burdening this program with additional and unnecessary costs, which is why I intend to work in support of legislative language on the Senate floor that would prevent USDA from moving forward with a faulty policy whose implications have not been fully considered.”
BACKGROUND: In May, Senator Snowe urged First Lady Michelle Obama, founder of the Let’s Move campaign, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Snowe to reevaluate the nutritional and economic impacts of this proposal. In letters to both, Snowe asserted, “It has been well-documented that currently nine out of ten Americans are not meeting vegetable and fruit consumption recommendations. I am disappointed that, despite these statistics, the USDA would propose rules denying our nation’s youth access to nutrient rich foods as part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.”
Background from the National Potato Council: Potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free and low in calories. A medium-sized potato has no fat, no cholesterol and contains only 110 calories. Potatoes are sodium free and low sodium diets help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. By eating one medium sized potato, you will receive 45% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C — a great antioxidant. Potatoes contain 18% of the recommended daily value of potassium — a great way to build stronger bones. The 3g of fiber in one medium-sized potato is 8% of the recommended daily value. Diets high in fiber are beneficial for a healthy digestive system and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Consuming adequate fiber also makes you feel fuller, helping to reduce snacking between meals. Potatoes contain 26g of carbohydrates, only 9% of the recommended daily value. Complex carbohydrates are a great source of energy for the body. Potatoes have one of the highest overall antioxidant activity among vegetables. Antioxidants protect key cell components by neutralizing the damaging effects of “free radicals.” Potatoes also contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may help protect against some cancers.
Additional background on Maine potatoes: Maine potato farmers planted nearly 55,000 acres in 2010, with a yield of 29,000 pounds per acre, for a harvest of 1.6 billion pounds with a value of $159.2 million. The value of Maine’s potato harvest has been on the rise. In 2009, it jumped 5% compared with 2008 to $150 million, and yet again in 2010 with its value increasing 3% over the previous year.