WASHINGTON — The United Fresh Produce Association is feeling the heat for
opposing an amendment added to a childhood nutrition bill July 15 that
would allow the federal school snack program to hand out dried and frozen
United Fresh supports the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act of
2010 (H.R. 5504), which passed the House of Representatives Education &
Labor Committee by a vote of 32 to 13.
The legislation would increase the reimbursement rate for lunch by six cents
to help schools meet nutrition requirements, loosen purchasing requirements
for school salad bars, enhance funding for nutrition education in schools,
help schools set up local farm-to-school networks, extend food-safety
requirements to all places food is stored, and increase access to healthy
But at the markup, an amendment by Reps. David Wu (D-OR) and Cathy
McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) is causing United Fresh, already working during a
July heat wave in the nation’s capital, to feel the heat. At issue is an
amendment approved by the committee that included frozen fruit in the
program. Other language in the bill would extend purchases to dried
The American Frozen Food Institute immediately applauded the bill changes.
"At no additional cost to the taxpayer, the Wu-Rodgers amendment expands
the snack program by enabling school dietitians to provide healthy, affordable
frozen fruit," Kraig Naasz, president and chief executive officer of the
institute, said in a July 15 press release. “Thanks to Reps. Wu and Rodgers,
schools can ease the pressure on strained budgets and ensure children have
year-round access to fruits that provide the nutrition growing bodies need.”
But Lorelei DiSogra, United’s vice president of nutrition and health, is not
pleased. United Fresh is “very disappointed with the inclusion of frozen and
dried fruit” and plans to “improve” the legislation as it moves through
Congress, Ms. DiSogra said in a July 15 statement to members. Since then,
certain members of the industry have been upset with United Fresh’s stance.
“We’re feeling the heat,” she told The Produce News. “We are not in favor of
changes to the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program,” she said. “If they
destroy the program, the whole fresh produce industry should be angry.”
Ms. DiSogra predicted that schools will buy fewer fresh commodities if the
program is expanded to canned and dried fruits. “Once you open the door, it’s
going to be difficult to close.” Also, she credited fresh fruits and vegetables
with changing children’s attitudes about produce and turning them into
lifelong consumers of healthy foods.
Still, it is unclear whether Congress can reauthorize the child nutrition
programs before they expire on Sept. 30. The Senate, which is weighed down
by a crowded legislative calendar before the elections, has yet to act on a
companion $4 billion bill.
Ms. DiSogra said that she plans to reach out to health groups to weigh in on
the importance of maintaining fresh produce and vowed, “over my dead
body,” to stop the language from being attached to the Senate bill.