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Maine Delegation Questions WIC Program Potato Ban
02/28/2014 03:57 PM ET  

The USDA's revised guidelines set to be issued next week are intended to encourage WIC recipients to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, but fresh white potatoes are excluded from the program.

Members of Maine's congressional delegation say they're disappointed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to ban fresh white potatoes from the so-called WIC program, a federal nutrition initiative for women and children.

Sen. Angus King says potatoes - one of Maine's signature crops - have nutritional benefits, and are cheap. "It is shortsighted and misguided to exclude them from the program particularly given that less healthy options - like sugarcane - are included," he says in a statement.

Last spring, King sponsored a Senate Farm Bill amendment authored by fellow Maine Sen. Susan Collins which would have included fresh white potatoes in the WIC progam, but the amendment never got a vote on the Senate floor.

Maine 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud says he's written a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking why fresh potatoes are being excluded.

"It is mystifying to me that despite the fact that USDA's own 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women eat 5 cups of starchy vegetables per week and children up to age 5 eat up to 2 cups of starchy vegetables per week, USDA still chose to exclude the nutrient rich white potato, which contains potassium, fiber, vitamin C, calcium and protein from the WIC guidelines," Michaud writes.

The USDA is preparing to unveil the revised guidelines for the WIC program next week. The revisions are part of an effort to encourage WIC recipients to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables - but not white potatoes. Officials say decisions about what to include in the WIC food package are based on scientific evidence.


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