Commending US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) steps to encourage students’ greater consumption of fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods, Produce Marketing Association (PMA) submitted comments to the Child Nutrition Division of the agency’s Food and Nutrition Service in support of its proposed rule to strengthen nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. Citing recent Produce for Better Health Foundation research finding less than 15% of children eat the recommended number of fruit servings and less than 20% eat the recommended vegetable servings, PMA encouraged USDA to go beyond the proposed rule and further promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“This rule, when combined with the existing school lunch and breakfast standards, will expand access to fruits and vegetables and provide more opportunities for students to consume healthful options and present USDA with additional opportunities to promote the development of healthful eating habits,” says Kathy Means, PMA vice president of government relations and public affairs, in her written comments.
The proposed rule, National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School as Required by the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act of 2010, applies nutrition standards in alliance with Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendations beyond federally supported school meals programs to all foods sold in schools. Because the DGA recognizes fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense and therefore encourages greater consumption, the rule proposes fruits and vegetables be exempt from the proposed rule’s nutrient standards.
Means said this proposed exemption sends a clear message that reinforces fruits and vegetables as healthful, key components of foods available to students and foods that should comprise half the plate.
PMA disagreed with USDA’s statement as it relates to fruits and vegetables that implementation of nutrition standards for competitive foods will result in “potentially more expensive” mix of foods offered. Demonstrating the idea that healthful eating has to be expensive is a myth, PMA referenced its October 2010 produce pricing research that finds the DGA’s daily recommended nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables can be obtained through prices ranging from 88 cents to $2.18.