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WASHINGTON -- The United Fresh Produce Association is cheering a new proposed rule from the Department of Agriculture that would significantly increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables served to the 32 million students served by the National School Lunch Program.

The proposed rule, announced Jan. 13, seeks to align the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and Institute of Medicine's recommendations, both of which call for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

"Fruits and vegetables really are the stars of this proposed rule," Lorelei DiSogra, United's vice president of nutrition and health, said in a Jan. 13 press release. "We are pleased that the proposed rule will double the amount of fruit served at breakfast, double the amount of fruits and vegetables served at lunch and increase variety. Children like fresh fruits and vegetables and will eat more when they are available in school meals. Increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables will improve their health and reduce their risk of childhood obesity."

All schools would be expected to implement the proposed rule beginning in school year 2012-13.

"The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in 15 years and will help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day," Dr. DiSogra added. "Together with the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, this rule will dramatically increase the amount of fruits and vegetables available to school children."

While the initial analysis of the proposed rule is very positive for fruits and vegetables, there are still many details to examine that will affect the produce industry. United Fresh will form a working group to review the rule and provide comprehensive comments back to USDA within the 90-day comment period.