Leave potatoes out of federal food program

2 min read

Food vouchers and baskets provided through WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) should continue to exclude white potatoes, according to a column co-authored by Eric Rimm, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The piece, published online May 22, 2014 in USA Today, was written in response to a letter sent by 20 U.S. senators to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to “take immediate action to remedy the unwarranted exclusion of white potatoes from the WIC food package.”

Rimm and his co-authors, who all served on the scientific advisory committee that produced the report upon which the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans are based, argued that there is strong evidence linking starchy, calorie-dense white potatoes with weight gain, obesity, and diabetes, especially among vulnerable, low-income populations.

“Pregnant women, new mothers and their children derive the greatest health benefit from eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables,” they write. “While white potatoes contain some important nutrients and dietary fiber (when the eaten with the skin on), there are many other vegetable sources of not only these nutrients, especially dietary fiber, but many other under-consumed nutrients as well.”