Schools offer huge opportunities - The Packer

Schools offer huge opportunities

10/02/2013 05:37:00 PM
Tom Karst

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Changes in school nutrition standards translate to big opportunities for produce marketers.

During a workshop at the United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference called “Growing kids consumption — growing new consumers,” Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh’s vice president of nutrition and health, said school menus are a great sales opportunity.

Her claim was backed up by school foodservice officials on the Oct. 1 panel, who said that fresh produce purchases have nearly doubled in the past year.

Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing for Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., spoke to an overflow crowd about the opportunity for fresh produce vending machines in schools. Christou said vending machines with fresh produce near athletic facilities have done especially well. The number of fresh produce vending machines supplied by Del Monte has increased from 10 to 50 in the New York City School District, he said.

Because of policy changes and increased demand at schools, fresh produce has become central to Ontario, Calif.-based Gold Star Foods’ strategy. said Sean Leer, vice president of sales. Gold Star supplies the Los Angeles school district, and fresh produce went from zero to 18% of sales from 2011 to 2013.

DiSogra said nutrition policy changes are being implemented in schools that have been in the works for many years, and that has resulted in new opportunities for produce operators.

The change in the school lunch menu in the 2012-13 school year and upcoming policy changes coming in July 2014, including different breakfast standards and snacks available at schools, represent opportunities for increased demand, DiSogra said. In the 2014-15 academic year, schools will have to serve twice the amount of fruit in breakfast meals compared to current requirements.

One cup of fruit has to be served at school breakfast next years, and DiSogra said in most cases that will include a combination of juice and fruit, whereas in the past schools may have offered only juice.

Also taking effect next July, DiSogra said USDA established new standards for all foods and beverages sold in schools, including vending machines, snack bars and a la carte lines.

“It is a huge opportunity to get more produce in schools,” she said.

Marla Caplon, director of child nutrition for the Montgomery County (Maryland) School District, said the district serves 70,000 meals in 202 schools every day.

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