Produce is a winner in nutrition politics

Rep. James Comer, R-KY (left), and Rep. GT Thompson, R-PA, (right), said fresh produce industry members should find support for many nutrition requests when they talk with Congress this week in Washington, DC. United Fresh senior vp of public policy Robert Guenther moderated the discussion.

WASHINGTON, DC — Of the three issues the fresh produce industry hopes to persuade Congress members on this week in lobbying visits, nutrition looks like a winner.

Influential attendees at this week’s United Fresh BB #:145458 Washington Conference will find some tough meetings with some legislators on trade and immigration due to hard positions on political levels.

But the third, centering on fresh produce as part of nutrition policy, allows for some bipartisan support (see full list of asks below).

Speakers from Congress September 17 indicated support for produce industry requests.

On school lunch options, Rep. James Comer, R-KY, said Republicans in the House generally support fresh produce in meals as long as the regulations of the Obama administration were relaxed, which they were.

“The last administration had their hearts in the right place, but the kids wouldn’t eat the food” that had tighter rules on nutrition, he said.

Rep. GT Thompson, R-PA, said the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) Grant Program, which supports efforts to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), had bipartisan support and likely will again.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-MA, said he’s a big supporter of nutrition as a part of solving hunger problems, and fresh produce has an important role to play in that.

He said he’s working with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-IL, on a bipartisan bill on healthy school breakfasts that ought to include fruits and vegetables.

McGovern also said many Democrats are looking to work with the health care community to include more recommendations on nutrition that would benefit the produce industry.

There could be push-back on some budget issues when it comes to increasing food benefits, but the produce industry should fight to keep its products in any system.

Here are the United Fresh requests that industry members are taking to hill visits with House Representatives and Senators September 17-18:

-Recommendation #1:

Protect children’s access to fresh produce in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) by keeping it fresh only.

-Recommendation #2:

Ensure school nutrition standards align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), including maintaining current fruit and vegetable serving requirements.

-Recommendation #3:

  • Make permanent School Kitchen Equipment Grants and authorize low-interest loans for infrastructure improvements.
  • Ensure that lower dollar, durable equipment is allowable under grants, including fresh-cut processing equipment, salad bars, and refrigeration.

-Recommendation #4:

  • Pilot doubling the dollar amount for WIC cash value vouchers (CVV) for fruits and vegetables in accordance with recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (National Academies) 2017 WIC food package recommendations.
  • Pilot allowing WIC participants an option of replacing jarred infant fruits and vegetables with a higher CVV amount to be used for fruits and vegetables. WIC

-Recommendation #5:

Expand WIC benefits to age 6.

-Recommendation #6:

Require USDA and the Department of Education to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to provide guidance for minimum seat time for consuming school meals and time of day for lunch.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services