The U.S. Senate has reportedly adopted an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from reducing the amount of potatoes and other starches in school meals. According to Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who authored the bipartisan measure, USDA earlier this year “proposed a rule that would limit servings of a certain category of vegetables that includes white potatoes, green peas, lima beans, and corn, to a total of one-cup per week in the National School Lunch Program,” while also prohibiting “this category of vegetables from the School Breakfast Program altogether.”

The amendment blocks USDA from eliminating these vegetables but keeps the requirement “that school meals be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” As a result, USDA and schools will reportedly retain the flexibility to regulate cooking methods and make “reasonable and suitable substitutions among affordable fresh and nutritious food options.”

“I am delighted that my colleagues in the Senate have accepted our amendment,” said Collins, who noted that USDA had estimated the rule’s cost at $6.8 billion over five years. “This means USDA cannot proceed with a rule that would impose unnecessary and expensive new requirements affecting the servings of healthy vegetables, such as white potatoes, green peas, corn, and lima beans.” See Senator Susan Collins Press Release and The New York Times, October 18, 2011.