Statement by President & CEO Tom Stenzel
WASHINGTON, D.C. – We commend the Senate Appropriations Committee for its sensible resolution of debate over implementation of the 2012 school meal regulations. We thank Sen. Harkin and Sen. Hoeven for their leadership to help schools adjust to some of the more technical requirements of the rules regarding sodium and whole grains, but preserves the critical importance of serving at least one half-cup of fruits and vegetables in school meals.
Now that a sensible, bipartisan solution has prevailed in the Senate, we encourage all players to step back from the debate and come together to better help schools meet these simple fruit and vegetable standards. We understand why some school leaders have been frustrated. Foodservice staff in our schools are often the unrecognized heroes who work hard to stretch inadequate dollars, often without adequate facilities and equipment such as salad bars, and still deliver quality meals to kids every day.
The fresh produce industry stands ready to support the School Nutrition Association and all of its members in implementing the fruit and vegetable requirements. Serving one-half cup of fruits and vegetables, in ways that kids love and eat, is one goal that we can accomplish together. We commit to providing school foodservice directors with technical assistance, training in produce procurement and handling, and sharing best practices of what’s working in thousands of schools across the country.
In its consideration next week, we ask the full House Appropriations Committee, on a bipartisan basis, to strike the blanket variances allowing schools to opt out of all nutrition standards, which was passed this week by the Agriculture Subcommittee. USDA’s actions this week to address technical issues in the rules, and the Senate’s action today to support flexibility where it’s really needed, give relief to assist schools without rolling back the very basic principle that school meals need to include at least a half-cup of fruits and vegetables.
Let’s put this debate behind us, and get on with accomplishing our goal of helping kids learn to make healthy choices for a lifetime.
Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Western Regional office in Salinas, Calif., United Fresh and its members work year-round to make a difference for the produce industry by driving policies that increase consumption of fresh produce, shaping critical legislative and regulatory action, providing scientific and technical leadership in food safety, quality assurance, nutrition and health, and developing educational programs and business opportunities to assist member companies in growing successful businesses. For more information, visit www.unitedfresh.org or call 202-303-3400.