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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments


Eat your peas and carrots, and put down those damn white potatoes:

But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children. Take, for example, what’s going on now with the Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC. This is a federal program designed to provide supplemental nutrition to low-income women and their babies and toddlers. The idea is to fill in the gaps in their diets — to help them buy items like fresh produce that they can’t afford on their own — and give them the nutrition they’re missing.

Right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars. Now, there is nothing wrong with potatoes. The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That’s why the Institute of Medicine — the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on the standards for WIC — has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC program.

That's from an op-ed in The New Work Times by Michelle Obama. It's chock-full of Nanny State we-know-better-than-you nonsense, but that was the tidbit that caught my eye. The first lady of the United States feels it is her duty to tell women they shouldn't be eating too many potatoes!

There's a reason "white potatoes" (hey, why isn't that offensive, by the way?) have always been such a big part of poor people's diets -- they're cheap and filling, besides being very tasty when prepared in a variety of ways. There are a lot of things our financially struggling family had to eat when I was growing up that I actively aboid today, but the humble potato isn't one of them. I can and have make a meal out of potatoes.

Of course the potato contributes to some poor people being on the fat side, too, because they're so starchy. Apparently potatoes already make up 45 percent of the vegetables eaten by women of childbearing age, so maybe it doesn't make sense to subsidize more of them. But let's haave a little respect for the noble tuber, which, after all, changed the world:

Many researchers believe that the potato’s arrival in northern Europe spelled an end to famine there. (Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.) More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950.” The potato, in other words, fueled the rise of the West.

Equally important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex.