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Working to put common sense back into the WIC rules

May 19, 2014 | 0 comments


Did you know participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program can buy nutritious potatoes with a voucher at a farmer's market, but not at their local grocer?

Sound odd? We think so. But this is reality thanks to a USDA rule that allows WIC vouchers to cover the purchase of all fresh fruits and vegetables, except potatoes, in grocery stores.

Sound crazy? We agree. Potatoes are sodium, gluten, fat and cholesterol free, not to mention they are packed with vitamins and nutrients essential for a body's overall function. They're also fantastic sources of potassium and dietary fiber. The National Potato Council (NPC) says "only 2 percent of the U.S. population is meeting USDA's recommended servings of potassium and dietary fiber — two of the four 'Nutrients of Concern' found abundantly in potatoes.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), WIC program participants are already eating enough potatoes, which is "consistent with the latest dietary recommendations." However, the NPC points out that this information is "based on now-obsolete nutritional recommendations and outdated consumption data from the mid-1990s." www.nationalpotatocouncil.org/files/5813/9967/0515/05.07.14_WIC_myths_vs_reality.pdfUSDA,

The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) says you can be sure the industry is doing its part to put common sense back into the WIC rules.

"We are working very closely with our legislators as well as organizations such as the National Potato Council on this effort," says WPVGA Executive Director Duane Maatz. "Potatoes are essential to the nation's food supply and we consistently provide safe, quality food at affordable prices. Our goal is to make this a win-win situation for everyone involved and not limit the consumption of our potatoes and vegetables."

In a recent NPC update, a bipartisan group of 20 U.S. Senators recently sent a message to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack communicating their disappointment that the department disregarded the latest nutritional science in its decision to retain the ban on fresh white potatoes in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) basket.

The letter concludes by urging Sec. Vilsack to "take immediate action to remedy the unwarranted exclusion of white potatoes in the WIC food package in light of more recent science."

WPVGA is a non-profit organization that represents and promotes state potato and vegetable growers. They currently represent more than 300 members and affiliates. For more information on their commitment to sustainable agriculture, jobs and water use, visit www.wisconsinpotatoes.com.

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