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Potatoes, Once Maligned, Get A Nod From State Health Officials

Doctors Add Tuber To List Of Acceptable Foods For Women, Infants And Children

Lester Public Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)

State health officials expect that, by this summer, potatoes will be allowed in the government nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC.

A national panel of doctors has reversed course on white potatoes. The Institute of Medicine now says the root vegetable provides nutrients Americans need more of: potassium and fiber.

That’s welcome news for growers in Wisconsin, the nation’s third-largest producer of potatoes.

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Tamas Houlihan is executive director of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association. He said that, even though WIC’s inclusion of potatoes does not mean french fries or potato chips, the change will still impact farmers in the state.

“In Wisconsin its about 50 percent of the crop goes for what we call table stock or the fresh market, which are the potatoes you buy in a grocery store,” said Houlihan. “We do have quite a bit of potato chip and french fry production in Wisconsin but its probably in the range of 20 percent of the crop for each of those sectors.”

White potatoes were added to the government nutrition program in a previous national budget bill. States have to implement the change by this July.