National Editor Tom KarstThe U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service has issued its widely anticipated proposed rule on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and it looks quite strong for fresh. The regulation will put more formal parameters around the program, which began in the 2002 farm bill as a four-state pilot project to increase fresh (and dried) fruit and fresh vegetable consumption in schools.
From the rule:
The purpose of the Program is to encourage the increased consumption of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables in elementary schools serving low income students. Schools participating in the Program would provide access to fresh fruits and fresh vegetables that are appropriate for the grade levels of the enrolled children and that represent a variety of whole or pre-cut fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen, canned, dried, certain types of vacuum packed and other types of processed fruits and vegetables would be prohibited from being served in the FFVP. In addition, schools would be required to limit the service of cooked fresh vegetables to a maximum of one service per week as part of a nutrition education lesson. Other ingredients of the cooked fresh vegetable dish would not be reimbursable under the Program. Low fat or non-fat dip for fresh vegetables is permitted in the Program in order to encourage consumption and enhance acceptability. Many vegetables may otherwise not be palatable to students. However, fruit is acceptable on its own and does not need to be enhanced for acceptability. Since fruit has naturally occurring sugar, we determined that dips for fruit will increase not only sugar but fat in children's diets and would be counterproductive to the goals of the Program.
TK: Frozen, canned, dried... prohibited! After all, it is the "fresh fruit and vegetable program" but we know dried fruit marketers will be disappointed. After all, they say, they were in the original pilot. The USDA thought it better not to open the door to all manner of "non-fresh," one could speculate. Another interesting section relates to 'geographic preference."
From the proposed rule:
Should SFA's choose to exercise the geographic preference option, it basically allows schools operating the FFVP to specifically define geographic areas from which they will seek to procure unprocessed local fresh fruits and vegetables. It is up to each school or SFA to determine how to define the geographic area from which such products will be procured. As previously stated, utilizing a geographic preference is an option that may or may not be utilized when procuring fresh fruits and vegetables for the Program.
TK: The USDA also refers to a positive evaluation report of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
From the proposed rule:
An interim evaluation report was delivered to Congress in September.\1\ That report finds that students consume an additional \1/4\ cup of fruits and vegetables, on average, on days when the program is operating. That is nearly 15 percent higher than average fruit and vegetable consumption of children in non-FFVP schools. In addition, the report finds no statistically significant increase in total calorie consumption by program participants. That finding suggests that fruits and vegetables are replacing other foods in the diets of participating children, rather than adding excess calories. The report is available on the FNS Web site at http://www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/CNP/cnp.htm.