Pilot brings hope of produce commodity purchases

10/14/2008 12:00:00 AM
Tom Karst

Fresh vs. canned, frozen

David Tuckwiller, chief of the commodity procurement branch of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s fruit and vegetable programs, told the advisory committee during an earlier meeting that fresh produce shipments for schools totaled only 9 million pounds in 2007, down from 24 million pounds in 2000. Since Sept. 2, the USDA’s Web site recording commodity purchases indicated only 7 fresh produce purchases, compared with 23 purchases of canned or frozen fruits and vegetables for use in schools.

He said the program would include school districts that already buy sliced apples and have a distribution system in place. He said then that the agency plans to buy sliced apples from processors, and the product will be shipped to distributors for allocation to schools. He said schools would pay only for delivery costs.

DiSogra said schools don’t get much money for the fruit and vegetable portion of the school lunch, which is one reason some schools use a lot of canned or frozen fruits or vegetables.

“If they can get (fresh-cut) though commodity purchases, then that’s the lowest cost to the schools,” she said.

DiSogra said she like to see the AMS spend all the new money that the agency received in the farm bill on fresh and fresh cut produce purchases for schools.

“That would be our goal, that over the next couple of years, that at least 50% of this money is going to buy fresh and fresh cut fruits and vegetables for school children, out of the commodity money,” DiSogra said.


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