School Lunch
School lunches, for now, will still be allowed to contain french fries, tater-tots and mashed potatoes. Image: Flickr / Ben+Sam / CC-BY-SA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been making an effort to make school lunches healthier. As a part of this effort, the USDA made an effort to severely limit potatoes in school lunches, a move that has been blocked by the Senate.

An effort to block the potato

In new guidelines proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, schools participating in the Federal lunch program would be subject to new regulations. White potatoes would not be allowed in federally subsidized breakfasts, and all “starchy vegetables” such as lima beans, potatoes, corn and peas would be limited to no more than one cup total per week. The goal was to increase the number of leafy greens and colorful vegetables served.

Congress blocks USDA regulations

The new USDA regulations, on Tuesday, were officially blocked by a Senate vote. The regulations were blocked by an amendment on the 2012 spending bill for the Agriculture Department. The amendment specifically prohibits the USDA from setting “any maximum limits on the serving of vegetables in school meal programs.” This move angered nutritional reformers looking to change school nutrition but was a boon for lobbyists for Maine, Idaho and other major potato-producing states.

A fight over nutrition

The fight over potatoes in schools is a part of a much larger issue over the food served to students in schools. Currently, the National School Lunch Program reimburses schools between 26 cents and $2.77 per student meal. School lunches have become a focus of many looking to reform how children eat. Some are focusing on the fact that most potatoes and vegetables served in schools are breaded and fried, rather than baked or boiled. Potatoes are naturally low-fat and high in potassium but do contain simple carbohydrates. Many schools also serve pre-prepared or packaged foods, rather than fresh-prepared options.


USA Today:
NY Times:
ABC News:
Food Research and Action Center:

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