(Oct. 18) OTTAWA — As obesity rates weigh ever heavier, nations increasingly are turning to school snack programs to instill positive habits at an early age.

Economists report the programs are leading to more produce purchases once the trial snack programs expire, attendees learned at the fifth international symposium of the International Fruit and Vegetable Alliance.

About 140 of the world’s most influential nutrition policymakers — from 17 countries — convened Oct. 15-17 to compare notes and share insights about boosting produce consumption.

“We have to create something that is impossible to stop,” said alliance chairman Ron Lemaire — by day the executive vice president of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association — quoting a colleague from a previous symposium.

Opening speaker Dr. Andrew Pipe from the University of Ottawa’s Heart Institute said not enough attention is paid to preventing obesity and disease, citing sobering examples from daily life:

  • Goliath Caskets has changed its product line, making bigger, stronger caskets to accommodate fatter dead people.

  • The Queen Mary cruise ship was taken out of service for several weeks so workers could replace all the chairs, which were buckling under the strain of today’s weightier cruisers.

  • Several Canadian commercial air crashes have occurred because planes were overweight, with a payload calculated using outdated average passenger weights.

“This is a startling transformation in human culture,” Pipe said, of the obesity trends.