Statement by President & CEO Tom Stenzel
WASHINGTON, D.C. – United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel issued this statement in response to today’s action by the House Appropriations Committee.
We are deeply disappointed by the vote today by the House Appropriations Committee to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children. However, we believe the spirited one and one-half hour debate on an amendment offered by Rep. Sam Farr to protect school meal standards shows that the waiver provision in the current bill is flawed.
We do not believe the party line vote in committee to support Subcommittee Chairman Aderholt’s waiver provision is indicative of full House support for rolling back school meal standards. Rather, many members of the committee spoke in favor of providing technical support to schools and possibly delaying some of the more difficult provisions. While this vote in committee was up-or-down on the amendment, we believe thoughtful members on both sides of the aisle can find a real solution more like that adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
We believe there is strong support both at USDA and among a majority of House members to find ways to help schools adjust to some of the more technical requirements of the rules regarding sodium and whole grains, but preserve the critical importance of serving at least one half-cup of fruits and vegetables in school meals. Serving one-half cup of fruits and vegetables, in ways that kids love and want to eat, is one goal that we can accomplish together. Granting a waiver to that basic, minimal standard is unacceptable to even describe items on a school lunch tray as a “meal.” The fresh produce industry is committed 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.
As the Appropriations bill comes forward to the House floor, we urge members to work together on a bipartisan basis to strike the blanket variances allowing schools to opt out of all nutrition standards, and instead develop language that supports flexibility where it’s really needed, without rolling back the very basic principle that school meals need to include at least a half-cup of fruits and vegetables.
If the House moves forward with a blanket variance allowing schools to opt out of serving at least one-half cup of fruits and vegetables — over the objections of the national PTA, respected school nutrition leaders, and the entire public health community – parents in every congressional district across the country will be outraged.
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.