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Is the potato a vegetable? USDA says yes, and it will stay that way

Reclassifying a food would impact programs influenced by the government, like school lunches and SNAP benefits.
Is the potato a vegetable? USDA says yes, and it will stay that way
Posted at 3:09 PM, Apr 05, 2024

Potatoes typically don't grab a whole lot of headlines. But in recent months, the starchy spuds have done just that after reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture was considering reclassifying the potato as a grain, instead of a vegetable.

The possible change even got the attention of 14 Senators. The bipartisan group wrote a letter to the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services strongly opposing peeling the potato off the vegetable list.

But potato fans need not worry. A USDA spokesperson told Scripps News, "The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is not and has not discussed considering a change to the classification of potatoes."

Still, the saga highlights the important role government plays in setting national nutrition standards. Reclassifying a food would impact programs influenced by the government, like school lunches and SNAP benefits. 

"The USDA guidelines are five servings of vegetables and fruit today. And so if you take potatoes out of the mix, you're going to be potentially eliminating one of the servings of vegetables that people routinely get into their diet," said Beth Czerwony, an outpatient dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition.

The humble potato delivers nutrients like vitamin C and potassium, making it a good fit for the vegetable category. Plus they're also cost effective and easy to grow. 

"I think it's very underrated, I don't think people really think that potatoes themselves have a lot of nutrients and benefit. And actually, that's just not true," said Czerwony.

Every five years, the USDA updates the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The evaluation process for 2025–2030 is still underway, and while some changes are possible, the potato's position as a vegetable is safe and sound.

SEE MORE: Why are lawmakers pushing to keep potatoes classified as a vegetable?


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