BOISE -- Idaho is world famous for its potatoes, butthe famous exportcould soon be virtually eliminated from the nation's school lunch programs.
The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the nation's school lunch and breakfast programs,believes drastically reducing the amount ofstarchy vegetables, such as potatoes,will make the meals healthier.
The proposal would elminiate potatoes altogether from school breakfasts and limit the servings to two a week for school lunches. But the Idaho Potato Commission would like tostop the proposal from moving forward.
Removing it from the lunch programs takes one of the most economical nutritionally dense foods off the menu, said Frank Muir, President and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission.
The Idaho Potato Commission argues the potato is packed with nutritional value,such asVitamin C and potassium. They say it's the french fry that gives the potato a bad reputation when it comes to obesity.
That's what this is all driven by, the french fry connection. But here is the ironic thing, over 80% of french fries now throughout the school programs are baked, said Muir.
The proposal would raise the standards of school lunches for the first time in 15 years. The USDA believes focusing more on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting sodium, banning trans fat and reducing starchy vegetables would help solve the challenge of childhood obesity.
But the Idaho Potato Commission says requiring school districts to make the change would be costly.
Absolutely going to cost the school districts more money. And all the school districts know that. Every district that we are aware of that has petitioned the USDA has indicated they are not in favor of this program, said Muir.
The commission believes Idaho farmers would be hurt by the proposal, too. They estimate the state could lose out on selling roughly 600 million pounds of potatoes to the government, if potatoes are drastically cut from school menus.
In our opinion the best thing to do is keep potatoes on the menu and incorporate other vegetables and fruits with the meals, said Muir.
The new rules could take effect next summer, but there is a push in Congress to stop it. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine andMark Udall of Coloradowill attempt to strip funding to implement the new guidelines when the USDA appropriations bill goes to the Senate floor, sometime in the coming weeks or months. The House-approved USDA appropriations bill already prohibits funds from being used to further the proposed USDA guidelines.
Muir said the Idaho Potato Commission has the support of Idaho's congressional delegation.
All four of our state legislators are on board with this, our two senators, our two represenatives are on board with supporting keeping potatoes in the school lunch and breakfast, said Muir.