CERRITOS, Calif — Tom Stenzel wants to see produce sales increase, and he’s got three ideas to make that happen.
Speaking at the May 1 luncheon meeting of the Anaheim, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council, Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, said industry members can move more fresh fruits and vegetables by supporting public policy that “changes the environment,” by investing in industry excellence and by making a personal commitment to the next generation.
The industry already has affected public policy through programs like the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable School Snack Program, Women, Infants and Children fruit and vegetable vouchers and school meal regulations that require at least one-half cup of fruits and vegetables at lunch, he said.
Next, Stenzel would like to transform SNAP — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps, “from a cash transfer program to a nutrition program.”
Last year, the federal government paid out more than $61 billion in food vouchers with virtually no restrictions on what foods may be purchased, he said.
Participants in the program spend more on soft drinks than they do on produce, he said, and 19% of the funds are spent on snack foods compared to less than 5% for produce.
Stenzel proposed a strategy that would apply the same philosophy as the WIC program and allocate a portion of SNAP funds to fruit and vegetable vouchers for children.
“A $10 per child fruit and vegetable voucher would equal $200 million a month or more than $2.4 billion per year,” he said.
“We need retail support,” he added.
Stenzel also stressed the importance of investing in industry excellence through programs that develop young leaders, provide executive development for seasoned executives, recognize women leaders, honor chefs for their commitment to produce and recognize excellence on the frontline of retail sales.
He lauded programs like United Fresh’s Produce Industry Leadership Program and FPFC’s Apprentice Program.
Finally, he emphasized the importance of the industry’s “commitment to the next generation” through programs like the United Fresh Start Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and its community grants program that extends the foundation’s work beyond the school day.
He said 50% of schools now have salad bars.
“We created the model,” he said.