By Vicky Boyd
Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission who “sacrificed his body for the good of the industry,” received the Potato Man of the Year Award Saturday.
The award, presented by The Grower and The Packer in conjunction with the National Potato Commission, recognizes an industry leader who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during the previous year.
Grower editor Vicky Boyd made the presentation at the NPC’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.
Voigt was recognized for his two-month-long all-potato diet that he undertook to protest the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s omission of potatoes from the Women, Infants and Children program.
Throughout his effort, Voigt used electronic media and conducted hundreds of media interviews to update followers and educate the public about the nutritional value of potatoes.
At the peak of the diet, his website received 70,000 hits per week and the Facebook page received 6,000-7,000 hits per day, Voigt says.
In the end, he lost 21 pounds and improved his health. But Voigt says the efforts haven't stopped.
"There's still work to do," he says. "We still have to convince the USDA that the diet is successful and the potato is worthy to be in the WIC program and the school lunch program."
Voigt and a group of industry leaders plan to meet with the USDA in mid-February to discuss the topic.
Grower-members of the National Potato Council also plan to talk to the USDA during the council's legislative meeting in late February.
At the same time, the Washington Potato Commission has a Voter Choice link on its website so Voigt's followers can submit a letter to the USDA about reinstating potatoes to the WIC program.
He's also encouraging potato associations in other states to post the link on their websites.
Voigt says the Washington Potato Commission has received numerous recipe requests for the dishes he ate during his diet.
As a result, he says the commission is working with a dietitian and chef to develop a "28 Days of Potatoes" recipe brochure. It will feature healthy preparation tips for breakfast, lunch and dinner.