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School Lunch Potato Fight Gets The Colbert Treatment

You know that a political food fight may be a teensy bit out of hand when it becomes fodder for late night TV. And that's exactly what happened last night to the long-running saga of the subsidized school lunch spud.

In a nut shell, several members of Congress have been fighting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's school nutrition guideline proposal for its suggestion that to help fight obesity, the lunch ladies should hold the potatoes to two servings a week for lunch and eliminate them for breakfast.

And not long after the Senate reached a deal on the issue last night, comedian Stephen Colbert took several minutes to vent his anguish.

In the segment, he decries the "food police" at USDA for their "attack on an American school lunch tradition" of eating a tray full of "tots."

"If you don't let our children snack on that delicious golden brown starch bomb, you're taking away the small shred of happiness in the otherwise nonstop hell parade that is being a middle school boy," he says, feigning to be near tears.

Colbert then recounts a plausibly semi-autobiographical tale of a boy's teeth and nose growing too big for his face and being taunted by a bully with toilet water.

"It's more than food - it is kid Xanax," he moans.

Last night, potato champion Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, declared victory when she announced that the Senate agreed to tell USDA to hold off on potato limits for a year.

After intense lobbying by the potato industry on the health benefits and cost benefits of the humble vegetable, the House passed a measure this summer that would make USDA scratch the entire proposal and start over. That language now needs to be married with the Senate version.

But the victory may be merely symbolic. The USDA guidelines aren't even final, and would take a year or so to implement. Plus, the Congressional supercommittee tasked with making big budget cuts might just override the bill anyway.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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