The California Dried Fruit Coalition wants to maintain its focus on increasing its acceptance in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
“We’ve been in the California WIC package for a couple years, and the acceptance has been good,” said Rich Peterson, executive director of the coalition.
The program was previously limited to fresh fruit, but Peterson maintains that dried fruit offers the program a longer shelf life and more variety with high nutrition in dried fruit.
After being included in the California program, the group has its sights set on other influential states such as Texas and New York.
“We’re just trying to spread the word,” Peterson said.
The process is proving to be difficult, however.
“We thought once we were in California, other states would follow, but each state makes its own decision on what its food package will consist of and it has taken a long time. We’re still working on it,” he said.
The coalition, which represents the raisin, dried plum, dried fig and date industries, offers no-sugar-added dried fruit options. Other commodities with dried options often have added sugar.
The coalition is also monitoring the progress on the current farm bill.
“There are two versions right now. One would include dried fruits in general. The other would have fresh only. We’re doing our best to ensure they include the no-sugar-added dried fruits,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the coalition is also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the continued use of dried fruits in packaged mixes used for schools or other domestic feeding programs.
“The dried fruit mix is composed of a combination of five dried fruits in equal portions, 20% of each product,” Peterson said.
Dried fruits are also included in a mix that contains nuts, which the department still offers.
The last purchase USDA made consisted of dried cranberries, dried plum pieces, dried date pieces, dried fig pieces and natural seedless raisins, Peterson said.
“The components vary based upon what the relative supplies of the various dried fruits are. The bigger supply of a commodity, the more likely it is to be included,” Peterson said.