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United supports new legislation encouraging salad bars in every school

by | December 15, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The United Fresh Produce Association congratulated Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Adam Putnam (R-FL) on their introduction of the Children's Fruit & Vegetable Act of 2009 on Capitol Hill.

United Fresh President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel thanked the congressmen for their leadership on the bill, which now becomes a priority component of overall child nutrition legislation in 2010 reauthorizing the school lunch and breakfast programs.

"The introduction of this legislation is an important step calling attention to the simple but powerful role fruit and vegetable bars in schools can have in improving kids' health," Mr. Stenzel said in a Dec. 16 press release. "Research has shown that school children significantly increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when given a variety of choices in a school salad bar. When offered multiple fresh fruit and vegetable choices, children respond by trying new items, incorporating greater variety into their diets, and increasing their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables."

The Children's Fruit & Vegetable Act is the latest chapter in a partnership between Rep. Farr and United Fresh, which teamed up last fall to showcase a school salad bar to lawmakers during United's Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill, then donated the salad bar to a Washington-area elementary school. Now, together with Rep. Putnam and 14 other original co-sponsors, Rep. Farr is working to make salad bars a reality for schoolchildren across the country. The other original co-sponsors on the bill are Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Laura Richardson (D-CA), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), James Moran (D-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jos? Serrano (D-NY), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Lois Capps (D-CA).

The new legislation is intended to provide policy direction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with schools to promote the adoption of fruit and vegetable salad bars and other strategies to increase access to fruits and vegetables in school meals. Additional funding for school lunch programs will be considered in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

The Institute of Medicine's October report, "School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children," recommends doubling the amount of fruit served at school breakfast and doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables served in school lunch. America's children eat less than half of the daily amount of fruits and vegetables recommended for good health by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines today. The report also recommends funding for cafeteria equipment, training and increasing the federal reimbursement rate for school meals so that schools can serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The bill brings attention to many of the institute's recommendations and provides an opportunity to build congressional support for including these priorities in the 2010 Child Nutrition Act.

"The benefits of fruit and vegetable salad bars also extend beyond just the produce consumed during the breakfast or lunch hour at school," Lorelei DiSogra, United's vice president for nutrition and health, said in the release. "Increased daily access to a variety of fresh produce items provides a personal experience about choices that can shape behavior far beyond the school lunch line. Children learn to make decisions that carry over outside of school, providing a platform for a lifetime of healthy snack and meal choices."