WASHINGTON (AP) — The ubiquitous white potato has scored another victory on Capitol Hill.
House and Senate panels this week endorsed the inclusion of fresh white potatoes in the federal Women, Infants and Children nutrition program. The Agriculture Department doesn't allow them in the program for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers because they say people already eat enough of them. Other fresh fruits and vegetables are allowed.
The potato industry has aggressively lobbied for inclusion in WIC, saying it's not as much about sales as the perception that potatoes aren't as nutritious as other vegetables. Lawmakers from roughly 40 potato-growing states have been trying for several years to include the potato in the program.
The potato's advocates argue that it provides potassium, dietary fiber and folate, a water-soluble B vitamin, that can be helpful for pregnant women. They say it is also economical, which could help low-income mothers stretch their dollars.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday adopted an amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to an agriculture spending bill that would include white potatoes in WIC. That followed House subcommittee approval of its version of the bill earlier this week, also allowing potatoes into the program.
"It makes no sense that you can buy iceberg lettuce with a voucher," and not potatoes, Collins said, arguing that iceberg lettuce has very few nutrients.