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Colorado Senators Go To Bat For Potatoes

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Potatoes (credit: AP Photo/Troy Maben)

Potatoes (credit: AP Photo/Troy Maben)

DENVER (AP) – Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is concerned that proposed new standards for school lunches could hurt Colorado’s potato farmers, a newspaper reported Monday.

Udall fears the federal proposal limiting the amount of starchy vegetables served to one cup once a week could give potatoes a bad reputation and hurt Colorado’s $300 million potato industry, the Denver Post said.

Colorado is the fourth-largest producer of potatoes in the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed increasing the amount of fruit, leafy vegetables and whole grains served to school children every day while limiting corn, lima beans, peas and potatoes but not sweet potatoes.

“I’m going to keep fighting for a balanced school lunch policy and encouraging children and families to stay active and healthy,” Udall said.

Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet are both worried about how much the proposed change could cost school districts, since some vegetables cost more than potatoes.

Another Democratic member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, Rep. Jared Polis, supports the new proposal.

“Just to be clear, this policy doesn’t ban potatoes,” Polis said. “But our obesity rates are rising, and this leads to more health care costs, life problems that we all end up paying for. We can start to prevent that by having more nutrition in the schools.”

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said studies have shown that children choose something starchy 75 percent of the time when they have options at lunch.

“Kids can have potatoes, but instead of every day they wouldn’t be on the menu more than twice a week,” she said. “The biggest concern is french fries.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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