Vegetables and fruit
Stapled to his body suit
“Retire him” was the plan
But Produce Ma-a-an lives again!

(March 11) No, Ozzy hasn’t gone off (or is that on?) his “meds” again. This is the straight-up truth. Produce Man — or, rather, his long-lost twin or an evil clone — is alive and well … and living in suburban Cincy.

The Man in Green, Yellow, Red, etc. recently was spotted spreading the fruit-and-veggie gospel to students in Kentucky schools just across the Ohio from Porkopolis. Twenty-three elementary schools participated in a 5 a Day challenge held March 1-7 and sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Edgewood, Ky. Kids who got their 5 a Day all seven days of the challenge won prizes. (A turn in the suit, maybe?)

The thing is, Produce Man’s creators at the Produce For Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del., had no idea he was still kicking. In 2002, after seven years of service, they canned him, choosing to go in a more sophisticated marketing direction.

Hence PBH public relations director Lori Baer’s shock upon receiving the news of his apparent resurrection. (Note to PBH: If you really want to get rid of Produce Man, try a food processor.) But after a little digging, Baer came up with a less supernatural explanation.

“A number of years ago, a couple of people bought their own Produce Man suits,” Baer explained. “One of them went to the Lexington/Fayette County Health Department in Kentucky. They probably lent it to the department up north.”

That is indeed what happened, said Peggy Kiser, public health information officer for the Northern Kentucky department. But they won’t be borrowing for long — the department has put in an order with one Character Translations Inc., Norristown, Pa., for a Produce Man suit of its own.

“The kids love Produce Man,” Kiser said. “We didn’t know anything about PBH ‘firing’ him. He’s a hit here.”

Produce Man even laced ’em up for a boxing match with the American Cancer Society’s “Polyp Man,” Kiser said.

“Of course, Produce Man won,” she added.

Instead of recoiling in horror at the thought of a Produce Man clone stalking the earth — not to mention messing with the PBH “brand” mojo — Baer applauded Ol’ Pear Nose’s comeback.

“We really don’t have a problem with them using it,” Baer said. “We have enough to worry about, without stopping someone from spreading a positive message like that. It must be a slow news day at The Packer.”