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22 May 2011 - U.S.D.A is Out of Line on Potatoes

Potato farmers from the state of Maine to the state of Washington are angry. I understand their anger and I share it because our beloved ‘spud’ is under attack. The attack is coming from the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The Department is currently revising rules and menus for the school lunch program, menus for the federally subsidized school breakfast and lunch programs across the nation. The rules will be announced in the coming months and will take effect in the 2012 school year.

This is what U.S.D.A. is saying about the potato: “The U. S. Department of Agriculture is proposing to eliminate the “white potato” - defined as any variety but the sweet potato - from federally subsidized school breakfasts and to limit them sharply at lunch.”

Under the proposal, school cafeterias would have to limit starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans to a total of one cup per week for lunch. Not only is this angering growers and processors, but Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is upset. She testified at a Senate hearing in March, holding a potato in one hand and a head of iceberg lettuce in the other, and she said “one medium white potato contains nearly twice the vitamin C as this entire head of lettuce. So my question, Mr. Secretary, is what does the Department have against potatoes?” The National Potato Council has mobilized a campaign titled “Tell USDA to Keep Potatoes in Schools” and I think the Council deserves our support.

These vegetables, and the technology to produce them, were put on this planet to provide sustenance for us all; it is our privilege to use them responsibly to help our nation and our world grow, thrive and survive, not to ban them from existence. What nutritious food item will be the next victim?

But beyond the potato, this takes us to the even larger issue as far as I am concerned. Why do we need federal, state and local governments to dictate what we should eat. Shouldn’t that be our personal responsibility or is it just easier to let someone legislate our eating habits.

You’ve heard about the group that wants to fire Ronald McDonald, telling McDonald’s that he should disappear from the company in spite of all the good he has done with Ronald McDonald Houses. This group says he entices young children to eat foods that are unhealthy or ‘junk’ food. In my world there is no such thing as ‘junk’ food, and it is not Ronald who drives kids to the store and gives them money to buy; it is the parents who apparently can’t use and enforce that two-letter word…NO. I applaud the CEO of McDonald’s for telling the group that Ronald would continue to be a part of McDonald’s advertising and their customers would have the freedom of choice.

How many times over the years have I deplored the increasing refusal on the part of individuals to accept responsibility for their actions. When I was growing up and my parents said NO!, that ended the discussion; I practiced the same rule with my two children. Today’s parents need to do the same instead of blaming someone else for the obesity problem or turning to government to make the decisions for them. Oh, and let’s “Tell USDA to Keep Potatoes in Schools”.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.