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Limit potatoes in schools? Senators are cool to the idea

October 18, 2011 |  9:24 am

Potato
Spuds. Just another topic for debate in the U.S. Senate.

In the hyper-partisan atmosphere of Washington, lawmakers from both parties found something they could agree on: potatoes.

"Here are some nutritional facts about potatoes that are often overlooked," Sen. Susan Collins, Republican from potato-producing Maine, told her colleagues on Monday.

"We both believe potatoes have gotten a bad rap," added Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, another potato-producing state. "The truth is, when prepared properly, the potato can provide critical nutrients to students that will help them lead healthy lives and be ready to learn in the classrooms."

They are fighting proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition rules to limit the consumption of starchy vegetables, including potatoes, in schools.

For Collins, Udall and other lawmakers from potato-producing states, the issue is, well, no small potatoes. Potatoes represent tens of millions of dollars in business for their states.

Collins and Udall are among a bipartisan group of senators seeking to amend an agriculture spending bill before the Senate to prevent the department from limiting vegetable servings in schools. A similar measure passed the House earlier this year.

"It is not the potato," Udall said. "It is the way in which potatoes are being prepared and provided. We should be encouraging schools to prepare potatoes and other fruits and vegetables appropriately, not limiting their flexibility and potentially increasing their cost unnecessarily."

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: Proposed federal guidelines would eliminate potatoes from school breakfasts and reduce the amount of potatoes served in lunches. Credit: Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press

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