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Senate Potato Bloc Finds Way Around USDA

The question of how many spuds will be served in school lunches has been thrown to the U.S. House of Representatives by potato state Senators Mark Udall, D-CO, and Susan Collins, R-ME.

Udall and Collins managed to attach an amendment to an agriculture appropriations bill that prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from setting any maximum limits on starchy vegetables including potatoes, peas, corn and lima beans.

Potato state senators — a bipartisan bloc — organized to block USDA guidelines on starchy vegetables that they believed would result in reduced spud sales to the National School Lunch Program.

In amending the 2012 ag appropriations bill, Udall said the potato bloc wants USDA to strike a balance between nutritious food in school lunches and the ability of local school districts to afford the program with locally accessible food options.

USDA’s new nutrition standards called for no potatoes for breakfast and only one cup a week of potatoes for lunches. 

Udall quoted from a  Colorado School Nutrition Association letter: “We believe it is a realistic and attainable goal to create meal plans that meet the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans while allowing schools the flexibility to manage costs and maintain student participation. Improved nutrition in schools is a vital aspect of our nation’s health, one which we heartily support, and we believe it can be accomplished without significant damage to the programs we are trying to improve and without additional strain on local schools.”

The Ag appropriations bill won’t become law until passed by both the Senate and the House, and is signed by President Obama.

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