Produce horizon: Half a jail plate

01/25/2013 09:22:00 AM
Chris Koger

Chris Koger, Food for ThoughtChris Koger, News EditorOne of the great things about working for The Packer is seeing a new trend grow, eventually turning into a revenue stream for companies smart enough to take the leap on what might seem a risky proposition.

So many of these recent trends are made possible by the push to meet the obesity epidemic head-on: vending machines with fresh-cut items, snack packs featuring cartoon characters, and smaller fruit promoted for brown-baggers at school.

As schools continue to get more acquainted with federal meal guidelines that have elevated the servings of fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria, there’s a growing dialogue between school districts and local, regional and national shippers.

Hand in hand with that effort, companies and trade groups are stepping up to meet goals of the national Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

A member of that group, the United Fresh Foundation, has worked with produce industry companies to place more than 100 of the salad bars in schools across the country, and the group has a goal of placing 350 of them in California schools alone by May.

Hopefully the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s consumption charts will start to register the effect of higher nutrition standards and the availability of fresh-cut fruit and vegetables at salad bars.

At some point, though, the school market will reach a saturation point and sales will level off. Where to go from there?

I came across a new story recently that gave me an idea, and now I’ll give it to you.

It starts with a story from the online Philadelphia Inquirer, with this attention-grabbing lead:

“Vince Fumo used to be able to move political mountains. Now, he needs his fiancee to campaign to get him a nice piece of broccoli.”

The story, by Amy Rosenberg, is about Fumo, described as Philadelphia’s “most powerful state legislator” for two decades. He’s serving a five-year sentence on corruption charges, according to the article.

It seems that prison chow doesn’t include fresh vegetables, according to Fumo (he doesn’t miss fruit so much).

His fiancee, Carolyn Zinni, is taking his plight to the people, with an online petition. Her campaign, “Real Food for Felons,” calls for fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal.

In her post on the online petition, Zinni implicates Michelle Obama for pushing for nutrition for children while cons go without the broccoli rabe that Fumo misses: “What about prisons? Are these men and women less valuable?”

Does anyone see an opportunity here? It’s not as glamorous as watching a first-grader experience kiwifruit for the first time, but a “Salad Bars Behind Bars” campaign for jails and prisons could serve a new set of captive consumers.

Institutional foodservice could find a niche market here.

I’m surprised the Food Network doesn’t have a prison-based show: “Hoosegow Haute Cuisine,” “Slammer Eats” or “Iron Bar Chef Joliet.”

ckoger@thepacker.com

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John    
Florida  |  January, 31, 2013 at 01:02 PM

The answer is a resounding YES, those men and women most certainly are less valuable. Until every single child and good person has his or her fill of fresh fruit and veggies, the prisoners deserve to do without. They are already too well fed. However, if we can find a way to load the veggies with saltpetre and sterilization drugs, then I say we give them all they can stomach!

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