My wife is a first grade teacher and she pointed out the story in this
morning’s Kansas City Star on the recent report from the Institute of
Medicine on recommended changes to school lunches. “Are you working on
that story?”  I nodded and she pointed out a quote from a school
district foodservice official:

“The way this will be successful is if they fund nutrition education to go hand in hand with it,” he said. “If kids learn about fresh spinach in class, you have a better chance of getting them to eat it.”

TK:  From a teacher’s perspective, layering in nutrition education to the first grade curriculum on top of all the other reading, writing and math priorities doesn’t sound real attractive. Teachers are under pressure today to have their kids perform well to tests, even at the youngest ages. Sally’s perspective is that nutrition education best begins at home, and tasking teachers with yet another yoke of responsibility may be received coolly.  At the very least, I think the Produce for Better Health Foundation or perhaps government agencies could create age appropriate and ready-made nutrition education modules that at least help teachers prepare lesson plans on the benefits of f/v in the diet.

Random thoughts:

Whatever happened to?….Whatever happened to the controversy over country of origin labeling? That was one of the questions asked of me at a recent commodity outlook conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation. For all the heat that the topic generated over the years, the trade has certainly been quiet about labeling since the law was implemented earlier this year. We need an update from the USDA on what the store audits have found so far….

Where's Jim?… Perishable Pundit didn’t show up for the town hall discussion about the national promotion board for fruits and vegetables at PMA. His recent observations about the panel would have a truer ring of authenticity if they weren’t interpreted second hand.

Make it mandatory? ... There have been some good discussion threads about the question of whether electronic traceability should be mandatory. Join the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group at LinkedIn to check it out both sides of the argument.

More headlines this morning:

Junk food costs 10 times less than healthy option

From the story in an Irish newspaper:

IT can be up to 10 times cheaper to eat unhealthy foods loaded with fat, sugar and salt than to buy healthy items such as fruit, vegetables, lean meat and fish, a new Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) report has found.
For example, buying 100 calories worth of fruit and vegetables costs at least 45c, whereas 100 calories of snacks, crisps or biscuits costs 17c and 100 calories of fats and oils costs just 4c, they found.
This means it's cheaper to buy unhealthy snack foods which satisfy hunger quickly or use high-fat spreads and oils to fry food rather than buying fresh produce, they found.

Meatless Monday:  A political storm in the making
From the story:

On Monday night, Lou Dobbs did a segment on how "Meatless Monday" is being adopted by the Baltimore city school district in an effort to cut costs and get children to eat healthier food. The segment showed schoolchildren eating vegetarian chili and grilled cheese sandwiches, and CNN reported that they found no parents who objected to the policy.
The news network also noted opposition to the one-day-a-week of vegetarian food by the American Meat Institute -- a trade group that represents meat processors and packers with obvious financial interests in meat consumption. Without pointing out factors that helped fuel the initiative, such as childhood obesity and a national school budget crisis, CNN reported that the AMI is concerned that "students are being served up an unhealthy dose of indoctrination." The institute's Janet Reilly claims the policy was depriving students and parents of "choice."
After watching the segment, Dobbs described this as "a real political storm in the making." Um. Really?

TK: The outrage! Vegetarian chili over mystery meat nuggets. Doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but the food politics of school lunches are certain to be visible in the as food guidelines for school meals change.

Good Housekeeping:  Fruits and Vegetables

From the story:

As families look for ways to save money, they're cutting back on fruits and vegetables. That's bad news for a society that's already dealing with an obesity epidemic.
"It's a big problem because fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, so you can eat your fill and it will fill you up," said Jennifer Cook, of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
But the Good Housekeeping Research Institute says produce can lower your risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.
"Over time, eating a healthy diet, which includes fruits and vegetables, is probably going to save you money in terms of your medical costs because you're going to be healthier," said Cook.

TK: Solid piece on why fruits and vegetables are important to keep front and center on the grocery shopping list….

Shoppers' frugality cut Supervalu 2Q profit 42 pct
From the story:

After reporting another brutal blow to its bottom line, the company said it plans to double the number of Save A Lot discount stores it operates, cut prices in all its stores and reorganize its operations.
"Times are tough ... but we cannot and will not use the overall economy as an excuse," Supervalu CEO Craig Herkert said. "Supervalu must transform itself into a business that is customer-focused, dynamic and agile enough to meet the evolving needs of customers, whatever the environment. Clearly we have not done that recently."
Supervalu said weak consumer spending, deep discounts on top of lower prices that it passed along to consumers pushed its fiscal second-quarter profit down 42 percent.

Extending shelf life with microorganisms
From the story:

A Georgia State University professor has developed an innovative new way to keep produce and flowers fresh for longer periods of time. Microbiologist George Pierce's method uses a naturally occurring microorganism -- no larger than the width of a human hair -- to induce enzymes that extend the ripening time of fruits and vegetables, and keeps the blooms of flowers fresh. The process does not involve genetic engineering or pathogens, but involves microorganisms known to be associated with plants, and are considered to be helpful and beneficial to them.
"These beneficial soil microorganisms serve essentially the same function as eating yogurt as a probiotic to have beneficial organisms living in the gastrointestinal system," Pierce said.
The process works by manipulating the organism's diet so that it will over express certain enzymes and activities that work in the ripening process and keeping the flower blooms fresh. Pierce analogizes this to using diet and exercise to improve the performance of an athlete.

TK:The science seems mysterious, but this sounds like a big deal.