Sen. Schuitmaker, Rep. O’Brien introduce resolutions calling on fed to include white potatoes in WIC program eligibility

For Immediate Release:
April 30, 2014

Contact: Derek Sova

LANSING, Mich.—On Wednesday, Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Rep. Margaret O'Brien, along with a number of other legislative co-sponsors, introduced resolutions urging the president and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reverse their decision to exclude fresh white potatoes from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program eligibility.

WIC is an assistance program designed to provide food to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women; infants; and young children to prevent nutrition-related health problems.  The USDA establishes a list of certain foods that are eligible to be purchased with WIC program funds.

This year, the USDA officially excluded fresh white potatoes from the WIC program based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and USDA. However, in 2010, new DGA recommendations were developed calling for an increase of starchy vegetable consumption for women and children including fresh white potatoes.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, women in the U.S. are under-consuming starchy vegetables and WIC participants consume less than their non-WIC peers. We have an obligation to ensure that all fresh fruits and vegetables are available to WIC families and that they have a choice to eat the foods that are best for them,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton.

“Allowing the purchase of a variety of fresh, white potatoes in the WIC vouchers would allow for an additional good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber, some of the essential nutrients noted as concerns in the American diets,” added Lori Yelton, a registered dietitian with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. “Instead of eliminating a vegetable, providing WIC recipients with educational tools and recipes on ways to cook healthy white potato dishes may be more advisable.”

The USDA’s own 2010 data reflects the need for an increase of two cups of starchy vegetables per day for women. The USDA excludes the most economical source of dietary fiber from the WIC program: potatoes. At $0.19 per one cup serving, white potatoes are one of the most cost-efficient vegetables or fruits that provide women with an entire day’s recommended intake of vital nutrients. 

“Struggling families in southwest Michigan and around the state want to provide for their families in a responsible way,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Including white potatoes for WIC eligibility will better utilize taxpayer dollars and allow families to purchase food with high nutritional content at a lower cost.”

Since white potatoes are less expensive than most other vegetables per unit of nutrition delivered, WIC participants should be allowed to supply nutrients to themselves and their young children in a way that maximizes their WIC vouchers and the efficiency of government expenditures, said Schuitmaker.

Senate Resolution 138 was referred to the Senate Committee on Families, Seniors, and Human Services. House Concurrent Resolution 27 was referred to the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors.