WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, returns to the Washington Public Policy Conference 10 years after his landmark suggestion to provide schoolchildren a free fruit or vegetable snack each day to promote better health. The author of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the 2002 Farm Bill, Senator Harkin will speak on the importance of continued involvement and vigilance on child nutrition matters on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the annual public policy summit of the United Fresh Produce Association at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.
"As chair of the Senate HELP committee and former chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Harkin has long carried the torch for healthy kids on Capitol Hill," said United Fresh President & Chief Executive Officer Tom Stenzel. "His leadership with the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program and child nutrition in general has created unparalleled benefits for children nationwide."
"Senator Harkin's vision for the school snack program in 2001 was extraordinary," continued Mr. Stenzel. "I remember sitting in the WPPC audience, immediately recognizing the perfect simplicity of the idea, but also the hurdles we'd face in trying to implement a brand new program like this. But we all rolled up our sleeves and got to work."
From humble beginnings as a pilot project serving 100 schools in just four states and one Indian reservation, the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program was expanded nationwide in the 2008 Farm Bill with a budget of $1.2 billion. As students return to school this fall, more than 4 million children across the country will enjoy a free fruit or vegetable snack every school day.
"Even with the resounding success of the program he envisioned 10 years ago, Senator Harkin would be the first to tell WPPC attendees that his vision will not be fulfilled until every child has the same opportunity to taste and experience the widest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables," Mr. Stenzel said. "Our work is not done, and we must continue to be a positive force for increasing children's consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables."
Senator Harkin's Tuesday keynote adds to an already-packed schedule at this year's Washington Public Policy Conference that includes Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), discussions with federal regulators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, POLITICO co-founder Jim VandeHei, market segment-specific education sessions and the popular Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill. Additionally, this year's schedule includes the most visits to congressional offices by conference attendees in the event's history. More information on the Washington Public Policy Conference is available at www.unitedfresh.org/programs/wppc.