(March 30) Public health and fresh produce industry representatives from five countries — including the U.S. — are scheduled to brief the European Union Parliament’s agriculture and public health committees about childhood obesity and the need for school fruit and vegetable snack programs April 17 in Brussels, Belgium.

The briefing is expected to culminate with Laurent Damien, director of the French produce industry association Aprifel, requesting 100 million euros — or $133.6 million — to create school snack programs and expand existing programs on the continent.

“These countries have small programs, and they’re trying to secure funding to expand them,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C. “But they need help to figure out how to build political support. In order to take the next step, they need more funds from the EU.”

DiSogra is scheduled to speak at the briefing about the growth of school fruit and vegetable programs in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. started a four-state pilot program in 2002, and it has expanded to 14 states through agricultural legislation. The Eat Healthy America Bill introduced in the House on March 20 would expand the program to a minimum of 100 schools in every state and would increase funding from $9 million a year to $300 million.

“Nobody has tried to do this in Europe, putting public health and ag together,” DiSogra said. “They don’t see the link between ag and public health. We’re going to make that link.”