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White Potatoes to potentially be included in WIC voucher program

| June 20, 2014


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Potatoes are a staple on Aroostook County farms and in the kitchens of County families. And now it’s possible that the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, may include the vegetable that was once excluded from it’s food program. NewsSource 8’s Angela Christoforos has the details…

Maine Potato Board Executive Director Don Flannery said, “When you exclude white potatoes from the WIC program there is a perception there that they are not good- that isn’t the case.”

The white potato has been excluded from the WIC program food package that supports women infants and children for years. In a statement the WIC program says, “The decision not to include the potato from the current food list was made by USDA Food and Nutrition Services based in recommendations from the Institute of Medicine who determined that most Americans have enough access to the white potato in their diet and WIC should focus on other nutritious foods.”

Consulting Dietitian at WIC  in Presque Isle Amy Bouchard said, “Potatoes have gotten a bad rap over the years because they do have some carbohydrates in them which makes them a little starchier than some other low carbohydrate vegetables. But generally speaking speaking a medium white potato is only between 110 and 150 calories which is very reasonable for a vegetable.”

Right now, those in the WIC program can purchase white potatoes at farmers markets but they can’t purchase them at local grocery stores. That could all change. On May 22nd, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan agreement that’s been in the works for 5 years. It would require all fresh fruits and vegetables- including the white potato to be included in the WIC program.

“We think that the argument the USDA has been using to exclude them from the WIC program to be able to go buy them at a grocery store is a little bit weak in that they allow them to buy them at a farmers market. I think this will resolve the issue and hopefully we’ll be done with this discussion that we’ve been have for a number of years now,” said Flannery.

In the meantime though, it’s a waiting game that depends on the final outcome of the 2015 agriculture appropriations bill in Washington.

“Our delegation in Maine has been tremendously supportive of it Senator Collins has championed this cause for a long while. We think it’s just one of those things that takes time, time is continually moving forward with it and I think that we’re now to a point where I think success and it being accomplished is in the future,” said Flannery,
Over 1 thousand people in Aroostook County rely on and benefit from the WIC program that is nationally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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