The Persecution of the Potato

Americans are eating fewer potatoes, but is that a bad thing?

By Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

I came across an article this morning that got me thinking about the time-honored favorite vegetable of my generation, the potato. The article presented findings from a study conducted by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE), which obviously has an agenda of its own, but the findings were interesting nonetheless.

The study reported that school-aged children consumed, on average, 3% or less of calories per day from all types of white potatoes, including baked, boiled, mashed and french fried. Children consumed, on average, less than 1% of their daily caloric intake from white potatoes at school. Those trends continue into adulthood, according to the study; adult males between the ages of 19 and 30 get an average of 92 calories per day (3.3% of their total calories) from white potatoes, based on information obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Men over the age of 71 get the same percentage of calories from potatoes, but due to a decrease in overall food consumption, they get just 63 calories from the starch in an average day. Likewise, the study found that adult women over the age of 19 get 52 calories, or less than 3% of their daily intake, from potatoes.

So we are eating less potatoes, but is that really a problem? According to the article it is. It cited information given by Dr. Adam Drewnowski and colleagues from the University of Washington, who presented research at the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE), which demonstrated that potatoes were one of the best nutritional values in the produce department, providing significantly better nutritional value per dollar than most other raw vegetables.

All this talk of potatoes got me thinking of the vegetable's place in non-commercial foodservice, espeically considering all the news surrounding the new school meal pattern. Congress decision not to limit the use of white potatoes as a vegetable caused a bit of an uproar in the school food community earlier this year, but the potatoes survived. There is no doubt there has been a concerted effort made to swap out traditional white potatoes for other varieties and other vegetables for health reasons, even though white potatoes have plenty of nutritional benefits of their own.

In light of this study I want to throw the question out to non-commerical operators. Are you serving more or less potatoes than you were a few years ago? Why? Why not? Do you believe the hype that eating less potatoes is a bad thing? Let us know in the comments or email me at [email protected].