The U.S. Department of Agriculture has purchased more than $1.3 million in value-added fresh produce for school feeding programs and other related nutrition programs.

The USDA bought more than $1.2 million of fresh-cut apples and nearly $130,000 in baby peeled carrots, the agency said Feb. 2.

Purchases of fresh-cut apple slices were awarded to Shelby, Mich.-based Peterson Farms Fresh Inc., who will supply 47,520 cases of 100 2-ounce bags and 8,736 cases of 200 2-ounce bags to schools in Maryland, Michigan and Florida.

The HMC Group Marketing Inc., Kingsburg, Calif. was awarded the contract to supply 3,960 cases of 100 2-ounce bags to schools in California.

Deliveries of the fresh-cut apples are scheduled from Feb. 14 through May 20, the agency said.

Meanwhile, Western Veg-Produce Inc., Bakersfield, Calif. was awarded the bid to supply 10,350 cases of baby peeled carrots worth $129,168 to the Los Angeles school district between Feb. 14 and May 20.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, applauded the value added produce purchases USDA.

“These items are very, very popular with kids,” she said. “Providing these items to school lunch programs goes a long way toward increase fruit and vegetable consumptions among kids,” she said.

With only a handful of states receiving product from the USDA purchases, DiSogra said she hoped the purchases will help set the stage for expanded shipments to many more states in coming years.

Not counting the latest purchases, the USDA said fiscal 2011 purchases of fresh-cut apples (starting in October 2010 through the end of January) totaled $900,000, compared with complete year totals of $4.5 million for fiscal year 2010 and $4.1 million in fiscal year 2009.

Fresh carrot purchases to date in fiscal year 2011 totaled $639,000, up from $514,000 in all of fiscal 2010.