The move to include potatoes — excluded by regulation in the WIC fruit and vegetable voucher program since it began in 2009 — was part of the fiscal year 2014 spending bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama.
In the bill, lawmakers asked the USDA to include potatoes in the program or provide an explanation to Congress why potatoes should still be excluded.
In a Jan. 27 letter to Vilsack, DeLauro, D-Conn., said there was a scientific reason why potatoes are excluded in the WIC Special Supplemental Nutrition Program.
“Fresh white potatoes are not currently included in supplemental food packages because the research overwhelmingly shows that white potatoes are not lacking in the diets of low-income women and children,” DeLauro said in the letter.
“Further, while white potatoes can make an important nutritional contribution in the diet, the Institute of Medicine, when providing recommendations to USDA in the development of these food packages, conducted a thorough review of available evidence and found white potatoes to be consumed in sufficient quantity by the eligible WIC population, consistent with dietary recommendations. The Institute of Medicine further found other fruit and vegetable consumption to be lacking in the diets of WIC participants.”
DeLauro said the move by Congress to add potatoes back into program would be the first time Congress acted to specify the content of WIC food packages.
“Changing the allowable foods based on politics would set a dangerous precedent and undermine the integrity of the science-based process that has kept the WIC program strong for decades,” she said in the letter.
The USDA has not indicated if the agency will accept direction from Congress and include potatoes in the WIC food packages.