A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon in Salinas, Calif., hosted by the United Fresh Produce Association. I am a big fan of this organization and what they are trying to do for the produce industry as a whole.

Put school salad bar plan in industry’s hands

Josh Miller
Horizon Transportation Services LLC

One of their new programs is called “A Salad Bar in Every School.”

This is a great program and a wonderful idea that I believe will help the produce industry increase sales. This will also help with the childhood obesity epidemic that plagues our country. 

Though a great idea, the cost is very high. United Fresh estimates that it will take somewhere between $500 million to $1 billion to accomplish this task of supplying our schools with fresh produce and a salad bar.

Even though I believe this is a worthy endeavor and I support a program that puts a salad bar in every school in America — giving students the opportunity to choose a healthier lifestyle over their chicken nuggets, fried burritos, large sodas and pizza lunches — I do believe this is a large amount of money for the government to create a tax to pay for at this time.

In today’s economy I do not think the American people can afford another tax of this type with our government taxing companies and citizens for bailouts, health care, etc. Many Americans are just trying to get by in a tough economy, this American included.

Not believing it to be fair to throw out a problem without a solution, I will give the same suggestion that I did at the luncheon in front of the many California growers and shippers in attendance. It was a suggestion that was taken very well at the time.

Instead of lobbying Washington, D.C., to implement the funds for such a program, I believe the best and most cost-effective way is to take the existing “A Salad Bar in Every School” program and turn into a nonprofit organization.

I suggest this for a few reasons.

Usually, whenever the government is involved in a project, the cost is much higher than if it is done by private industry.

By making it a nonprofit venture, United Fresh can then approach each grower/shipper, produce broker and supply chain member, starting with those who are already United Fresh and FreshPAC members, to donate between five and 25 cents per box to the nonprofit.

The nonprofit can then start supplying schools, through local government assistance, with salad bars and fresh produce.

This would be a win-win situation for all parties. The funds for this program would be raised much more rapidly than by lobbying Washington, waiting for it to go through both legislative branches of Congress, the executive branch for ratification, and the judicial branch to approve it as constitutional to begin a tax for the supply of salad bars.

Going through the different congressional committees could take a decade alone.

Not only will forming a nonprofit get the ball rolling faster, it will also allow donors to receive tax credits. In this economy, that could help out many produce companies with substantial write-offs, and probably cost a lot less for the program to reach every school than it would if we let the government do their approach to such a program.

Again, as always, I applaud United Fresh for all their efforts, and wish them the best luck in their endeavors to help make America a better place for its growers and produce companies who help feed the world and keep it healthy.

This is a great cause all of us in this industry should endeavor to help out and get involved with.

This is my belief on how we can make a good program even better. I am no one special — I am just an employee for Horizon Transportation with an idea to help keep the industry moving in the right direction.

Josh Miller is vice president of sales and marketing for Horizon Transporation Services LLC, Visalia, Calif., which ships produce from the San Joaquin Valley to 48 states, Canada and Mexico.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.