June 6 2014

Michelle Obama's War on the Humble Potato

Abby Schachter

First Lady Michelle Obama is the author of a recent New York Times OpEd which devotes significant space to the humble white potato.

Specifically, Mrs. Obama bemoans the fact that people receiving benefits through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program might overidulge in potatoes. 

She writes:  

[WIC] is a federal program designed to provide supplemental nutrition to low-income women and their babies and toddlers. The idea is to fill in the gaps in their diets — to help them buy items like fresh produce that they can’t afford on their own — and give them the nutrition they’re missing.

Right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars. Now, there is nothing wrong with potatoes.

The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That’s why the Institute of Medicine — the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on the standards for WIC — has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC program.

It is interesting that the first lady admits that there is nothing wrong with potatoes, but she still can’t stop herself from meddling in food choices.  

She is against junk food, too, and it is possible to make an argument against the federally-subsided Twinkie.

As Kathrina Trinko wrote last year:

Some argue that placing restrictions on food stamps is a nanny-state stunt. But there’s a huge difference between a government’s banning an item and a government’s refusing to subsidize an item. Few conservatives would support banning cigarette sales — but it’s hard to imagine that the Right would support a federal subsidy to help low-income Americans buy cigarettes.

A recent study made the sensible recommendation that people on food stamps shouldn’t be allowed to use the money to buy soda.

So maybe FLOTUS should lay off the potato.

And maybe she should ask her husband to adopt some policies that create a good economy so people can get off food stamps.

 

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