Courtesy United Fresh Produce AssociationPhil Muir, president of Muir Copper Canyon Farms, testifies before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.During my five-decade career, I have witnessed the fresh fruit and vegetable industry struggle to get its day in the sun with the American consumer.
Today is that day!
That’s why when United Fresh called asking if I would testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on the importance of school nutrition, I didn’t hesitate.
Nutrition in our schools and the fight against childhood obesity is our industry’s best opportunity, and it has become a professional passion for me.
“There are produce suppliers all over the country who are just as passionate and committed to supporting schools as I am,” I told the Senate agriculture committee.
“We all want to provide schools with great quality fresh produce and help students increase their consumption.”
Any time that any of us in the produce industry has the opportunity to make our voice heard, especially about promoting consumption among our nation’s children, we should take advantage of it.
My passion for nutrition started with my introduction to the school lunch program, as a high school graduate in 1969 working in a school district central kitchen and delivering food to inner city elementary schools.
However, during the intervening 30-plus years of feeding our children, I feel that, as a nation, we have been missing the mark.
We have been feeding our school children high-fat, high-carbohydrate and low-nutrient per calorie meals, which has contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic.
Here are just a few alarming statistics:
- One in six children in America is hungry;
- Nearly 32% of America’s children are obese (according to Children’s Defense Fund); and
- “… an estimated 75% of all young Americans between the ages of 17-24 cannot qualify for military service,” according to Mission: Readiness, the organization of retired military leaders who are engaged in child nutrition.
They say that among the key barriers to enlistment is that these young people are “too overweight to handle the physical tasks that military service demands.”
The passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was a watershed event for the campaign against obesity. Its passage ushered in sweeping advances for school nutrition policies, which United Fresh strongly supported.
I am in awe of the heroic effort required by the coalition of nutrition advocates, United Fresh and other leaders who worked to pass this legislation.