(July 25) LOS ANGELES — Fresh produce consumption in schools might increase as local school wellness policies take shape.

At the 60th annual national conference of the Alexandria, Va.-based School Nutrition Association on July 16-19, the federally mandated policies were a topic of educational sessions and other meetings.

Erik Peterson, director of public awareness for the SNA, said the association had collected 260 sample policies from 15,000 school districts by early July.

A Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 mandate requires that school districts have local school wellness policies for the start of the school year. Policies were to be in place by July 1.

The SNA plans to assess school district compliance and creation of school wellness policies. Peterson said the group hopes to present feedback by mid- to late August.

Some wellness policies have been as small as one sentence, while others are 40 pages. The association, he said, is in favor of national standards for the federal policy, which allows schools to create individual wellness guidelines.

There are no penalties for schools that don’t properly follow the mandate, Peterson said.

To help some schools reach their nutrition goals, Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc., Salinas, Calif., plans to ship produce to 50 California schools for use in salad bars this year, said Terry Kuhel, business development manager for foodservice.

Meeting nutrition guidelines under the wellness policy mandate is not going to be easy, said John Heidkamp, central division foodservice manager in Northfield, Ill., for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif.

“A lot of times, somebody says, ‘The person with the short straw got the health and wellness job at their school,’” he said. “But what you find is usually the person that has the most energy at the school will take it upon themselves to help introduce it throughout the whole school.”

At a school in California’s El Monte School District, new types of fruits and vegetables have helped increase consumption, said Carol Berg Sloan, a registered dietician and consultant from Long Beach, Calif.

She said a fruit salad that emulates the Fruit & Walnut Salad from McDonald’s was popular with children. Having attractive produce, even leaving red and green peels on apples, also helps increase interest, she said.

Tree Top Inc., Selah, Wash., has worked with schools as they develop wellness policies, said Becky Westby, regional sales manager for fresh slice.

She said last year the company worked with the California Department of Education to provide instruction regarding the use and handling of fresh produce.

The SNA’s Peterson said the association also is suggesting that school foodservice employees practice what they preach. If they encourage children to eat more healthfully and be more active, then they should do the same.

The association’s Eat Smart, Get Moving program, a virtual contest, was set to take place from the end of this year’s conference through the Chicago event in 2007. It will challenge school foodservice operators to improve food choices and physical activity, Peterson said.


  • The School Nutrition Association expected about 5,100 attendees at the 60th annual convention in Los Angeles. The 2005 show in Baltimore attracted more than 7,200 visitors.

  • There were about 375 exhibitors at the show.

  • Eight fresh produce companies and nine industry associations were exhibitors.

  • About 80 educational breakout sessions were included at the convention.

  • The 2006 convention slogan was “Lights! Camera! School Nutrition.“

  • The 2007 convention is set for Chicago in July.

  • The organization’s Web site is www.schoolnutrition.org.

Source: Erik Peterson, director of public awareness for the SNA.

School nutrition expo examines nutrition policies
Lew Finch, superintendent-in-residence for the Arlington, Va.-based American Association of School Administrators, speaks at a July 16 presentation on school wellness policies during the School Nutrition Association’s 60th annual national conference in Los Angeles on July 16-19. Finch said school foodservice operators must identify appropriate ways to evaluate success or failure of local school wellness policies.