Spud spat

Spud spat

Update: 2024-06-171
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Digest

This episode of The Indicator delves into the contentious issue of potato classification, specifically whether they should be considered a vegetable or a grain. The debate stems from the federal government's dietary guidelines, which influence food choices in schools and federal assistance programs. While potatoes are botanically vegetables, their high starch content and common consumption in processed forms like french fries have raised concerns about their nutritional value. The episode highlights the powerful potato lobby, which has successfully lobbied to maintain potatoes' vegetable status, citing their affordability, versatility, and role in introducing children to other vegetables. The National Potato Council argues that reclassifying potatoes as grains would make them less appealing for school lunches due to their higher cost. The episode concludes with the USDA's decision to maintain potatoes as a vegetable, but the debate remains open as the possibility of considering them interchangeable with grains persists.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the topic of the episode, which is the debate surrounding the classification of potatoes as a vegetable. It also introduces the guest, Nate Hegey, host of the Public Radio Podcast "Outside In."

00:00:13
The Potato Debate

This Chapter delves into the history of the potato debate, highlighting the federal government's dietary guidelines and their impact on food choices in schools and federal assistance programs. It also discusses the nutritional concerns surrounding potatoes, particularly their high starch content and common consumption in processed forms like french fries.

00:06:25
The Potato Lobby

This Chapter explores the powerful potato lobby, which has successfully lobbied to maintain potatoes' vegetable status. The National Potato Council argues that reclassifying potatoes as grains would make them less appealing for school lunches due to their higher cost. The episode also highlights the lobbying efforts, including a 60-day potato-only diet by an advocate in 2010.

00:09:08
The USDA's Decision

This Chapter concludes with the USDA's decision to maintain potatoes as a vegetable, but the debate remains open as the possibility of considering them interchangeable with grains persists. The episode highlights the ongoing efforts of the potato lobby to ensure their continued status as a vegetable.

Keywords

Potato
A starchy tuber that is a staple food in many cultures. It is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in many ways, including boiled, mashed, fried, and baked. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Dietary Guidelines
Recommendations for healthy eating patterns issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These guidelines are updated every five years and provide guidance on food choices for individuals and families.

National Potato Council
A non-profit organization that represents potato growers and the potato industry in the United States. The council advocates for policies that support the potato industry, including research funding and marketing initiatives.

Lobbying
The act of attempting to influence decisions made by government officials, often by providing information or arguments in favor of a particular policy or position. Lobbying is a common practice in the United States, and it can be conducted by individuals, organizations, or corporations.

School Lunch Program
A federal program that provides subsidized meals to students in public schools. The program is designed to ensure that all children have access to nutritious meals, regardless of their family's income.

WIC Program
A federal program that provides food assistance to low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age five. The program is designed to improve the nutritional status of these vulnerable populations.

French Fries
A popular food item made from potatoes that are cut into strips and deep-fried. French fries are often served as a side dish with meals, and they are a popular snack food.

Gateway Vegetable
A term used by the National Potato Council to describe potatoes as a food that can introduce children to other vegetables. The council argues that potatoes are a versatile and affordable food that can be used to encourage children to try other vegetables.

Spud Spat
A term used to describe the debate surrounding the classification of potatoes as a vegetable. The term is a play on words, combining the word "spud" (a slang term for potato) with the word "spat" (a minor argument or disagreement).

Q&A

  • What is the main debate surrounding potatoes in this episode?

    The main debate is whether potatoes should be classified as a vegetable or a grain. This debate stems from the federal government's dietary guidelines, which influence food choices in schools and federal assistance programs.

  • What are the arguments for and against classifying potatoes as a vegetable?

    Arguments for classifying potatoes as a vegetable include their affordability, versatility, and role in introducing children to other vegetables. Arguments against classifying potatoes as a vegetable include their high starch content and common consumption in processed forms like french fries, which can contribute to unhealthy diets.

  • How does the potato lobby influence the debate?

    The potato lobby, represented by the National Potato Council, has successfully lobbied to maintain potatoes' vegetable status. They argue that reclassifying potatoes as grains would make them less appealing for school lunches due to their higher cost.

  • What is the USDA's current stance on potato classification?

    The USDA has decided to maintain potatoes as a vegetable, but the debate remains open as the possibility of considering them interchangeable with grains persists.

  • What are the potential implications of reclassifying potatoes as a grain?

    Reclassifying potatoes as a grain could lead to changes in school lunch programs, as schools might choose to serve less expensive grains instead of potatoes. This could have implications for the potato industry and the availability of potatoes in school meals.

Show Notes

The federal government classifies potatoes (whether they be baked, waffled, curly, fried) as a vegetable.

Recently some nutritional scientists were questioning that logic as the feds updated their dietary guidelines for 2025.

On today's episode, why potatoes have such sway on Capitol Hill and the real financial stakes spuds have in staying a veggie.

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Spud spat

Spud spat