Aiming to bolster fruit and vegetable consumption at schools, Rep. Sam Farr introduced the Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act Dec. 16.

Farr, D-Calif., said the bill — H.R. 4333 — includes several strategies to improve health and curtail obesity:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture is instructed to come up with a plan to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables purchased for school feeding programs;
  • The USDA will receive $10 million a year for two years to promote the use of salad bars in school cafeterias;
  • Farm-to-cafeteria programs will receive $10 million a year for two years;
  • School cafeterias will be eligible for infrastructure upgrades through a $100 million program; and
  • School personnel can receive training and technical assistance totaling $500,000 a year for five years.

 â€œThis bill is a great rallying point for generating support on the Hill and within the industry among nutrition advocates,” said Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

“Having the bill introduced adds more momentum to what we have been working on for the past year,” he said.

Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., is the legislation’s leading Republican co-sponsor.

“The tools provided under this bill will result in school meals that not only appeal to students but also better meet students’ nutritional needs,” Putnam said in a news release.

One of the key provisions of the bill, according to the release, mandates the USDA to make it easier for schools to purchase and distribute fruits and vegetables.

“USDA spends more than $10 billion a year on school feeding programs, but only a small fraction goes to fruits and vegetables,” Farr said in the release.

“The federal government talks about the food pyramid and healthy eating, then spends billions on unhealthy food. It’s time we put our money where our mouth is and address the poor quality of food in our schools,” Farr said in the release.

United Fresh President Tom Stenzel thanked Farr and Putnam in a news release from the association.

“The introduction of this legislation is an important step calling attention to the simple, but powerful role fruit and vegetable bars in schools can have in improving kids’ health,” Stenzel said in the release.

“Research has shown that schoolchildren significantly increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when given a variety of choices in a school salad bar,” he said in the release. “When offered multiple fresh fruit and vegetable choices, children respond by trying new items, incorporating greater variety into their diets, and increasing their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

Gilmer said the bill is stand-alone legislation but also will be strategic in the reauthorization of child nutrition programs next year.

Legislator introduces national school ‘salad bar’ legislation

Courtesy United Fresh Produce Association

The Children's Fruit and Vegetable Act seeks to provide more than $120 million over five years to boost healthy eating habits in schools. Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif. (center), introduced the Act Dec. 16. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla. (left), co-sponsored the legislation, which drew praise from Tom Stenzel, (right), president of the United Fresh Produce Association.