United Fresh Produce Association officials, including chairman Ron Carkoski, took part in a July 10 roundtable discussion with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, officials from the School Nutrition Association, Let’s Move! executive director Sam Kass and numerous other child nutrition advocates.

Carkoski, president and CEO of Four Seasons Family of Cos., Ephrata, Pa., said the meeting was respectful of all perspectives about federal school lunch standards.

While United Fresh, USDA and other voices have defended the new federal guidelines, the School Nutrition Association has criticized some aspects of the standards, including the requirement that schools serve a half cup of fruits or vegetables at every reimbursable school lunch.

In regulations introduced in 2012, cafeterias have been offering more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limiting the calories and unhealthy fats in school meals. Starting July 1 school cafeterias must also meet new limits on sodium, ensure all grains are whole-grain rich, double the amount of fruits or vegetables offered at breakfast and ensure students take half a cup of produce with every meal.

The meeting aimed to find solutions to end the friction about the updated nutrition standards. While one gathering likely didn’t reverse the School Nutrition Association’s position, it appears the door is open for more dialogue.

The meeting about school meals came just before the start of the July 13-16 School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference, a meeting that United Fresh and other fresh produce marketers will attend.

That will present another opportunity to reach out to school foodservice officials and move child nutrition forward to an outcome that will give America a healthier future.

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