Franken urged USDA to abandon limits on starchy veggies in school lunches
In the run-up to last month’s Senate vote that likely denied the USDA the right to limit potatoes in school lunches, U.S. Sen. Al Franken and eight other Democratic senators from potato-growing regions pushed hard on the federal agency.
In a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (below), the eight senators proposed that potatoes are healthier if topped with broccoli. The letter recommends that the USDA consider food preparation when compiling guidelines.
A Senate amendment to take away the agency’s ability to limit potatoes passed on Oct. 18, and will likely be merged with a House version.
The proposed rule limited kids’ lunches to one cup of starchy vegetables every week, which includes white potatoes, corn, lima beans and peas. The rule would also have removed starchy vegetables from breakfasts, limit sodium intake and mandate more non-starchy vegetables during lunches, among other nutritional improvements.
Franken said the rule change could “disproportionately affect” agricultural producers “without necessarily improving student nutrition,” according to a post Monday on his Senate site.
“While I applaud the USDA’s efforts to improve vegetable variety in our nation’s schools, it’s important that we consider the possible consequences of this rule on our farmers, and its disproportionate effect on Minnesota,” Franken said in the statement. “That’s why I urged the USDA to give our children the nutritious foods they need without making dramatic cuts to the dietary staples provided by Minnesota’s agricultural producers.”
The letter to Vilsack proposed that potatoes can be healthier if topped with broccoli. The letter recommends that the USDA consider food preparation when compiling guidelines.
The cost of the entire proposed rules, which covers many areas of nutrition, could have reached an addition $6.8 billion over five years, according to the USDA report. The revisions are designed to combat the childhood obesity epidemic and prevent related health problems.
Groups like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine have advocated for healthier school lunches. Other advocates, like Chef Ann Cooper of the Food Family Farming Foundation, have said opposing the new limits on starchy vegetables doesn’t serve the best interest of children’s nutrition.