Taking produce solutions directly to schools - The Packer

Taking produce solutions directly to schools

07/11/2014 09:32:00 AM
Ron Carkoski

Ron Carkoski, Four Seasons Family of Cos.Ron Carkoski, Four Seasons Family of Cos.This week, work is underway to provide solutions for schools that are working to provide more fresh produce to kids.

From my vantage point as chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, I have a front-row seat for seeing how United’s years of pioneering work on school nutrition strategies are paying off in terms of increased consumption.

We’re improving how kids in this country eat at school. The new standards call for half a cup of fruits/vegetables at lunch for 32 million students who participate in the National School Lunch Program.

That’s a huge impact, but implementing this change can require new thinking for menu planning, procurement, logistics, preparation and more.

While 90% of participating schools say they’re getting the job done, others are voicing concerns about meeting this important nutritional standard for our children. You’ve probably seen news in The Packer and elsewhere about possible legislation to grant waivers to schools that can’t meet the standard.

United, USDA and our school nutrition allies firmly oppose any attempt to delay or water down these nutritional requirements. Instead, we’re working to help schools get it done.

On July 10 I traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent United Fresh at a top-level meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to discuss how we make the most of the upgraded school meal standards.

Leaders from more than a dozen organizations representing nutritional and educational interests also attended, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Organization, National School Board Association, Pew Charitable Trusts and the School Nutrition Organization.

Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move! and senior policy adviser for nutrition was there as well.

We sincerely appreciate USDA’s coordination of this important discussion and its steadfast support for the modern school meal standards.

The message from Vilsack was clear: USDA is committed to helping schools provide half a cup of fruits or vegetables to kids at lunch. By working together, he said, we can help ensure that every school in the National School Lunch Program meets the standard and thereby improves access to healthful fresh produce for our kids.

If any schools are struggling to meet the nutrition standards, it’s unacceptable, and that was why USDA coordinated the discussion.

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