As far as Lorelei DiSogra is concerned, the recent Partnership for a Healthier America summit “Building a Healthier Future” was nothing but good news for the fresh produce industry, and the American public.
“I’d say 98% of the (corporate) commitments are about increasing fruit and vegetable access, availability and use,” said DiSogra, vice president for nutrition for the United Fresh Produce Association in Washington D.C.
“The growers and shippers will see this play out over the next year. There is a rolling timeline toward a change in our societal norms and fresh produce is a key element.”
The sold-out summit Nov. 29-30 attracted more than 800 attendees. First lady Michelle Obama gave the keynote address, discussing the importance of the corporate commitments to the Partnership for a Healthier America. DiSogra said those commitments are huge news for fresh produce.
As a case in point DiSogra cited the announcements by Darden Restaurants, which operates chains including Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Bahama Breeze, and Hyatt Hotels Corp., which serves 24 million guests annually. Both companies have committed to changing their kids’ menus to make fruit and vegetables default items.
The YMCA of USA, another member of the partnership, is also making fruit and vegetable snacks the new norm. DiSogra said she believes the trend will continue.
“The common denominator, which is no surprise, is about changing fruit and vegetables to be the default on kids meals,” she said. “These companies are really committed to changing our norms. They have to be evaluated by PHA, and they must sign a legal agreement. Then they are reviewed to make sure they are meeting criteria.
“These commitments are not just advertising gimmicks. They are real changes that will have huge impact on consumers and the fresh produce industry,” DiSogra said.
The sole produce industry sponsor of the summit was the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council. The council sponsored the summit’s reception, where fresh mushrooms were featured in six out of 10 dishes served, according to council president Bart Minor.
Minor said attendees loved the food, especially the mushroom/meat blend meatball, and they were excited to learn how mushrooms could be part of the solution to create healthier meals.