Fighting for half the plate starts with half a cup

04/11/2014 09:53:00 AM
Tom Stenzel

That is an inspiration!

So, how do we reconcile these two facts — schools with salad bars having great success while we hear horror stories elsewhere that kids don’t want even a half-cup of fruits and vegetables?

I believe it has to do with our offer to the kids. Are they getting a variety of great-tasting fresh fruits and veggies on their lunch line, or are they getting another scoop of something put on their plate whether they want it or not?

I have never seen a school with a salad bar that has a hard time getting kids to take, eat and enjoy enough fresh fruits and vegetables to comply with the school meals rules.

That’s why United Fresh is launching a new Fresh Produce Pavilion at the School Nutrition Association annual convention and expo in Boston this summer.

We are creating a 1,600-square-foot pavilion that will include exhibits from many of our members, but also training for school foodservice directors.

We’ll have demonstration salad bars, displays of fresh and fresh-cut product offerings that can facilitate school meals, and a team of produce experts on hand ready to consult with schools on how to maximize their success.

Many thanks to Monterey, Calif.-based Pro*Act for helping staff the pavilion with experts in produce distribution to schools.

Our goal with the pavilion is to help schools figure this out. Perfecting the fresh produce supply chain isn’t easy, but the challenge is worth it when you see the smiles on kids’ faces with fresh produce not only meeting the half-a-plate goal but exceeding it.

We’re also working to bring more funding to schools to help them achieve success. Just last week, new legislation was introduced in Congress to increase funding for cafeteria equipment, refrigeration, salad bars and the like — all in an effort to facilitate schools’ efforts to serve more fresh produce.

We’re going to be supporting that legislation strongly.

So for those who seem to only want to go backward, I have one thing to say: Not a chance.

We are changing the way kids in America eat, and that’s a mission that won’t be slowed down by just a few who can’t see the future.

Tom Stenzel is president and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

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