While we agree with many recommendations in the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) 2015 Position Paper, we are deeply disappointed that SNA has chosen to continue its ill-advised fight against serving kids more fruits and vegetables in schools. The requirement that kids receive one-half cup of fruits or vegetables in school meals is being successfully met by tens of thousands of schools across the country. This is a modest step for the health of our children, especially in these critical learning years. When health classes teach students to make Half Their Plate consist of fruits and vegetables, it would be unconscionable for the school cafeteria to undercut that message by not serving at least one-half cup in school meals.
We look forward to working with the Chairs, ranking Members and members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee this year to develop sound policies to support best health for kids and appropriate flexibility for schools in Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The compromises reached in the appropriations process in the last Congress send a clear signal that we cannot retreat from our modest efforts to increase fruits and vegetables in school meals. Moms and dads know this isn’t easy; but they also know it’s too important to our kids’ health to throw in the towel when real solutions exist. We once again call on SNA to revisit its thinking on this issue.
Our industry is working hard to assist schools in procurement, storage and handling, recipe development and presentation to make sure great-tasting, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables are being served and eaten. We have donated thousands of salad bars to schools across the country who use that equipment to serve a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to students every day. When something as simple as a $3,000 salad bar stocked with high-quality, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables can enable schools to easily go beyond the modest half-cup requirement, we need to build support for cafeteria equipment and training for school personnel to help them succeed.
Child nutrition reauthorization is an opportunity for Congress to look carefully at what is working and what is not in helping schools serve the healthiest, best-tasting meals to kids. We look forward to being a part of that dialogue, and sharing solutions that are working so well to help improve our children’s health.
Statement of Tom Stenzel, President & CEO, United Fresh Produce Association
January 29, 2015