Again showing a passion for providing fresh produce to schoolchildren, Sen. Tom Harkin is proposing an expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all low-income elementary schools.

Proposed bill calls for more produce in schoolsHarkin, D-Iowa, and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, included the proposal to expand the program in a public health bill called the Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America (dubbed the HeLP America Act), introduced in the Senate on Jan. 22.

While the legislation won’t likely see immediate action because of the federal debt ceiling and the stalled farm bill, one industry leader said that Harkin’s support was appreciated.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said United Fresh is pleased that Harkin continues to support expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

“The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is very effective — it increases children’s overall fruit and vegetable consumption, exposes student’s to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and promotes healthier eating habits,” she said in an e-mail. “The FFVP is a key prevention strategy for schools; all elementary school students would benefit from expanding the (program.)”

Harkin’s legislation includes access to fresh fruits and vegetables for all low-income elementary schools, tax incentives for wellness programs, greater oversight on food and tobacco marketing, and establishes new grants for community gardens, according to a news release.

“By making health and wellness a key priority in our schools, workplaces, and communities — and by educating people to make informed choices — the HeLP America Act can open the door for more Americans to live longer and more productive lives free from chronic disease,” Harkin said in the release.

The has been endorsed by the American Heart Association, the YMCA of the USA, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Trust for America’s Health, according to the release.