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Got Produce? Next Move
Is To Push For School Salad Bars

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 13, 2009

During our extensive discussion of the possibility of implementing a national generic promotion program all the way through the decision by the Produce for Better Health Foundation to withdraw from the effort, three things became clear about industry attitudes toward increasing produce consumption:

1. The overwhelming consensus seems to be that the low margins in many sectors of the industry combine with the inability to assure that increases in consumption will rebound to the benefit of current producers. This means that the financial contribution the industry can make to increase consumption is limited. Since the primary beneficiary of increased produce consumption is the general public, who benefits through increased health, it is part of the government’s mandate to “promote the general welfare” to promote proper diet generally and increased produce consumption, specifically.

2. That maximum leverage can be gained through specific efforts by government and industry to make sure fresh produce is widely available. These efforts can include program’s such as the vending machine concept Del Monte unveiled at PMA. It also can involve programs such as United Fresh has been promoting to put a salad bar in every school.

3. Maximum effort should be applied to getting children to eat more fresh produce as establishing good dietary habits is the most likely way to increase health.

An example of the kind of effort these three principles support is the ongoing effort of the United Fresh Produce Association to get a “salad bar in ever school.”

Back in September, United brought a salad bar to its Capitol Hill reception to highlight the initiative:

The United Fresh Produce Association announced today that it will feature a salad bar at its Fresh Festival event … in the Cannon House Office Building during the association’s Washington Public Policy Conference…. The salad bar, stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, will underscore the need for lawmakers to support United Fresh’s initiative to promote a national school salad bar policy in the upcoming Child Nutrition Act.

“This is certainly a great opportunity to advance policy that directly affects the health of so many young Americans,” said United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra. “Having a salad bar in front of so many lawmakers shows them how salad bars can be an effective tool for increasing produce consumption and promoting healthy eating habits among students.”

Capitalizing on the success and nationwide expansion of the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, United Fresh looks to build on kids’ love of fruits and vegetables with a salad bar in more than 100,000 schools across the United States.

“Research has proven that, when presented with the option of a salad bar, children will increase their intake of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables,” said DiSogra. “We are hoping that by providing the same options to lawmakers in the House and Senate, salad bars will become a standard feature in every school cafeteria.”

Following the public policy conference, United Fresh will donate the equipment to a Washington-area school.

“United is pleased to contribute our salad bar to a local school,” said Ray Gilmer, United’s vice president of communications. “Working with District of Columbia school officials, we will track the salad bar’s impact on students’ produce consumption and demonstrate to policymakers the efficacy of the salad bar strategy.”

We’ve spoken with and have gotten letters from Lorelei DiSogra, United’s Vice President, Nutrition and Health, many times, including here and here.

Now Lorelei and United are urging produce firms to sign a letter that would indicate their endorsement of the Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009.

Here is a list of organizations that have already signed on.

If your organization would also like to sign on to the letter, you can do simply by filling out this short form, here.

With the collapse of the generic promotion effort, it is important that the industry does not fall into an either/or mentality.

There are many efforts that can boost consumption.

United’s effort in this area is well in tune with the zeitgeist of the industry.

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