Quick Takes: USDA Potato Ban

Potato States Have Personal Agendas
Recently, the Senate voted for an amendment that allows unlimited potatoes in school lunches — a response to a proposal that would limit potato servings. On the surface, it seems as if a mutual desire to save French fries and tater tots has brought two divided, bickering parties together. But when senators had a chance to improve health amongst the youth, they decided to put money, and themselves, first.

Collins represents a state known for growing potatoes. Her background leaves her with a deep conflict of interest in the matter — despite the benefits of limiting potatoes, she is going to fight to keep them in schools. Also campaigning for the amendment are fellow Maine senator Snowe and senators from New Hampshire, Nebraska, Oregon and yes, Idaho — all states with strong potato interests. According to the Times article about the vote, when the first proposal “angered the potato industry,” these senators gave hackneyed excuses. According to them, the government shouldn’t be controlling what children eat and should be focusing on the preparation of the potatoes in schools, not simply limiting them. But of course, that’s not all they care about. 

Because if someone from Maine can support the limit, there’s no reason these senators can’t. Kevin Concannon, Agriculture Undersecretary who also hails from Maine, says that the limit is needed “so that millions of kids across the nation will receive healthier meals,” not to burden the potato industry. Collins and the rest of the senators aren’t concerned about the USDA hovering over the food our children eat or even for the health of our nation’s children — their only interest is in the money and votes that come from their states’ largest industry.

— Chelsey Davis
Staff Writer

Schools Can’t Control Student Lunches
The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new guidelines to the U.S. Senate on Oct. 18 to remove potatoes from school lunches — an overbearing demand that screams “nanny state.”

The educational system’s helicopter-parent approach to cafeteria food has already gone too far with the banned packed lunches at Chicago’s Little Village Academy. Principal Elsa Carmona requires students to eat in the cafeteria to eliminate any soda or junk food that could come from home. Upon a visit to the school, the Chicago Tribune found wasted food and half-eaten lunches in the cafeteria trash cans, and students even chanted that the food was not good enough. Carmona’s plan is backfiring because students aren’t even eating. Parents are also outraged that the school is infringing upon their personal choice of how to feed their children. This is an example of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition hastily prescribes a cure to a problem that is more complicated. 

Outrage was also felt when Fairfax County banned chocolate milk at their schools in 2010 and letters poured in from nutritionists insisting that the ban was the wrong decision. After endless complaints from parents on robbing children of a nutritious drink that their children actually liked, Fairfax County actually reversed the ban this year. This time, the county introduced a brand of chocolate milk with lower fat — a great example of looking to solve a problem rather than banning it outright.  

This state intervention has overstepped its boundaries in demanding that children not eat a natural starch. Time and time again, parents feel trumped by the school system on how to feed their own children, and the schools should face it: it is not their role to police every piece of food a student puts in their mouth. 
— Madeline Mann
Associate Opinion Editor

A Healthy Lifestyle Comes First
French fries may be loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, but it will take a much wider approach than just limiting potatoes to solve the problem of unhealthy youth. If we want to actively combat life-threatening issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, we need to show students how to make meaningful lifestyle changes at an early age.

Banning French fries at school does not necessarily put students on the fast track to healthy living. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, rest, exercise and diet are all factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. 

Not only do children need to eat junk food in moderation, but they also must consume enough of all the other food groups according to the food pyramid, exercise at least thirty minutes a day and sleep seven to eight hours a day. Instead of limiting the amount of potatoes in school lunches, a variety of food groups including fruits and vegetables should be introduced to increase nutritional benefits. If students don’t get french fries at school, it is likely that they will get them at home — the same about fruits and veggies. 

Schools need to put in the time to educate students at a young age about active and healthy practices. While most elementary schools have short, two-week units on health education, these programs generally only begin at sixth grade and place heavy emphasis on reproductive health. According to the Center for Learning, childhood habits develop and continue to affect brain function and refinement throughout life into old age. Enforcing a type of ground-up education will teach students to make their own healthy lifestyle choices — ones that are likely to stick. 

A potato ban is simply the easy way out of a complicated problem.

— Revathy Sampath-Kumar
Staff Writer