Getting children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables is important for their own health, but marketers know it’s also important for the industry to develop a solid base of consumers for its future.

“We’re making a conscious effort to involve kids in almost all of our Dole Fresh Fruit programs and promotions at the consumer level,” said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for the Westlake Village, Calif.-based company. “Even to the point of developing specific kid- and family-friendly recipes and other components.”

One example of a child-friendly marketing campaign is Dole’s summer “Go Bananas after Dark” promotion, but the company also promotes children’s increased consumption of fresh produce through its participation in “A Salad Bar in Every School” campaign.

Many other industry businesses have signed on as donors to the program, and the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association is actively encouraging more participation.

Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health, said the campaign can open up new avenues of sales for produce while it helps a generation of children develop lifelong good eating habits.

United Fresh pledged to the White House that the produce industry would sponsor 1,000 school salad bars during the next three years.

Fresh produce snacks are finding their way into schools through programs such as Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc.’s “Get Veggie-cated” snack program, and through Coral Gables, Fla.-based Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc.’s fresh produce snack vending line.

Produce marketers use television, the Internet and other media to spread messages about fruits and vegetables being part of a healthy lifestyle.

Chiquita Brands International Inc., Cincinnati, promotes its products through sponsorship of celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz’s fitness program and through its online healthy lifestyle contest.

The Vidalia Onion Committee, Vidalia, Ga., was surprised by the widespread media attention given to this summer’s “Shrek: Forever After” movie marketing tie-in. It’s not the first campaign to use licensed characters to promote fresh produce, but it turned out to be one that engaged both parents and children.

Some produce marketers put their efforts into reaching parents, caregivers and teachers, instead of focusing on direct marketing to children. They said it can be easier and more immediately effective to reach adults with their messages.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences works with the University of Florida Extension program and other entities to provide children’s agricultural education and materials for teachers and parents.