(July 1) Creating a more healthful eating environment is an important first step toward driving increased consumption of fresh produce.

President Bush on June 20 took that step, and the nation is taking up the charge.

The Healthier U.S. initiative calls for increased coordination between the 5 a Day for Better Health program and such government agencies as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.

The produce industry, through the Produce for Better Health Foundation and the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, is wasting no time. A three-part initiative is designed to push the agenda by assuring implementation of the nutrition provisions of the farm bill, boosting funding for nutrition promotion and lobbying Congress for renewed child nutrition legislation.

Notably absent from the campaign in produce circles so far — but not necessarily from all agendas in the nutrition arena — is a junk food tax. Produce industry leaders rightly see more benefit in accentuating the positive than in creating a punishment for offenders.

The produce industry stands to benefit by playing an enormous role in changing the diet of Americans.

The ball is rolling already. Keeping it on track will be a challenging but rewarding endeavor.