As the Senate debate on the farm bill kicked into high gear in late May, an amendment awaiting debate sought to add “all forms” to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

If Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and other supporters of the idea are successful — debate in the Senate on the farm bill is expected to wrap up in early June — then the basis of the success of the program will be at risk.

The House version of the farm bill, likely to be considered in June, already contains an amendment that would open up all forms of fruits and vegetables to be a part of the program.

Leaders of the frozen and canned fruit industry say the expansion to “all forms” is a way for school nutritionists to serve the widest possible variety of healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables throughout the entire school year.

We disagree.

There are multiple USDA programs that place processed fruits and vegetables in the hands of consumers. The overwhelming majority of USDA commodity purchases for distribution to schools, for example, are weighted to processed fruits and vegetables.

A recent USDA evaluation of the program found that kids ate about one-third of a cup more fruits and vegetables in participating schools.

The stated intent of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is to provide children with free fresh fruits and vegetables, but also expose them to food they may otherwise not have. While it may be a feather in the cap of canned and frozen lobbyists to pry open the program to creamed corn and frozen carrots, it is no great win for students.

The program is working, in its current form, to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Tell your representatives to keep it as it is.

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