(Nov. 30) Out of 92,000 public kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in the nation, only 225 participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program.

Even so, the impact of the program goes far beyond those numbers. A fruit and vegetable pilot program was first authorized for four states and an Indian reservation in the 2002 farm bill. This year, after intense industry lobbying efforts, the program was made permanent and extended to eight states and three Indian reservations.

The program remains a cornerstone of produce lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Keira Franz, director of legislative affairs for the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., said United will continue to seek expansion of the fruit and vegetable snack program to all 50 states in the years ahead.

The program uses $9 million in annual mandatory funding, up from $6 million in discretionary funding the original pilot received.

For the 2004-05 school year, participating schools in late November were in the beginning stages of setting up their fruit and vegetable snack programs, said Tracy Fox, nutrition consultant to the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del. The schools are funded by the USDA at about $79 per student per school year, she said.

“There are still little glitches, but the funds have been appropriated and it’s a matter of getting them to the schools,” she said.

Mississippi and Iowa received $1 million each for the fruit and vegetable snack program in an omnibus spending bill passed in December. Iowa had been an original participant and Mississippi was new to the program.

That money was allocated from the Centers for Disease Control budget, but Fox said those states now will receive USDA funding for the program.

The original states in the pilot program — all of which will continue in the ongoing program — are Ohio, Iowa, Michigan and Indiana. The states added to the mix are Mississippi, Washington, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Fox said PBH has sent school districts a list of PBH members that are willing to assist the school in nutrition information and outreach.

Dean Flaws, consultant to the Iowa Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Transportation, Des Moines, said the state was conducting a seminar about the fruit and vegetable snack program on the state’s cable television network for schools.

About 150 schools in the states applied for the program. The 25 schools accepted include previous participants.

Ann Feilmann, foodservice director for the Marshalltown Community School District, Marshalltown, Iowa, said the school district started the program in mid-October for the participating middle school, which has been a part of the program since the pilot began.

“We started doing the program two days a week, but we are going to be able to increase that,” she said Nov. 22.