April 26, 2022 Newark, De and Washington, DC – Last week, the International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962 coordinated a School Foodservice Partner X-Change to connect produce grower-shippers with leading K-12 school menu planners from 18 of the largest U.S. school districts and early childcare education providers.
The Partner X-Change was developed to enhance the produce industry’s understanding of this unique, large-volume foodservice customer and to create opportunities to increase children’s access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables at school.
The virtual event connected buyers and sellers for 15-minute “speed dating” meetings. School administrators shared information about their menu planning, procurement processes, and the types of fruit and vegetables they are currently offering, as well as what they would be interested in serving in the months and year ahead.
Produce suppliers heard directly from school foodservice operators about their needs and had the opportunity to ask questions. They also highlighted their company’s capabilities and products, including bulk produce and fresh-cut items, as well as kid-friendly single-serve produce snacks.
“K-12 schools are often the ‘largest restaurant in town’ and can be a collaborative partner to introduce thousands of schoolchildren to a new produce item, as well as to a variety traditional produce choices on a consistent basis,” said Andrew Marshall, IFPA’s staff liaison for wholesaler-distributor members, and lead staffer on engagement opportunities with the K-12 school nutrition community.
Every day, 31 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program. Schools are required to offer a fruit and a vegetable, and students must exit their lunch line with at least one serving of produce on their plate. In addition to lunch, many schools also offer breakfast, in-class fresh fruit and vegetable snacks, and an after-school supper program.
“These recent meetings were invaluable, providing much-needed insights into how schools are currently offering meals and what their needs and interests are for the future,” said Michelle Roberts, Director of Marketing for Taylor Farms Foodservice.
“Some schools are returning to salad bars, some are still very much in need of individually wrapped single-portion produce, and some want a grab n’ go fresh meal that includes all food components, so it’s fully reimbursable according to USDA standards. Overall, IFPA’s Partner X-Change was helpful to understand how school administrators are thinking, and it was great to hear their interest and commitment to making ‘fresh’ options more readily available to their students.”
Lisa Griffin, Child Nutrition Director for the Union Public Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma was one of this year’s School Foodservice Partner X-Change participants.
She said: “Being part of these meetings was incredibly helpful. We are currently working on our produce bid and because of our conversations, now plan to add new items, update our specs for certain bulk and individual pack sizes and it was also great to learn about the resources that growers and industry partners have available to help customers promote fresh produce. Schools can take advantage of these marketing materials as well!”
Schools and produce suppliers who participated in the K-12 School Foodservice Partner X-Change, included:
The K-12 School Foodservice Partner X-Change continues the association’s engagement with elementary and secondary school menu planners, programming that was previously coordinated by United Fresh Produce Association.
This July, the association will also host K-12 school menu planners at the IFPA Foodservice Conference, July 28-29, in Monterey, CA. The association has already begun invites to school nutrition leaders in California and will also coordinate a School Foodservice Forum to bring major city school menu planners to the event. School buyers will get to explore new products at the expo, participate in tours of nearby growing fields, and connect with existing and new suppliers.
To continue support for K-12 school foodservice professionals, IFPA also offers resources and connections year-round:
• Complimentary IFPA membership to take advantage of all the connections and resources IFPA has to offer
• A portfolio of foodservice-focused resources, including fresh produce trends and research to help plan and inspire menus
• Member directory access, as well as assistance identifying industry contacts by region, commodity, and industry segment
• IFPA publications, webinars, and white papers, as well as access to timely updates on food safety, operations, supply chain logistics, nutrition policy and more
• Complimentary registration to the annual IFPA Foodservice Conference, Global Produce & Floral Show, and potentially other conferences and events.
For additional information about the K-12 School Foodservice Partner X-Change, and other programs and resources for school foodservice operators, contact Andrew Marshall, Wholesaler-Distributor Relations and External Partnerships at (202) 303-3407.
“I would encourage any produce suppliers that work with schools, or that are interested in selling to this important customer, to get more involved with the association and encourage your school contacts to do so as well,” said Lisa McNeece, Vice President of Foodservice and Industrial Sales, Grimmway Farms. “Supporting healthy options for our youngest consumers at school, is without question an investment in a vibrant future for our kids and our industry.”
About the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA)
The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA)?is the largest and most diverse international association serving the entire fresh produce and floral supply chain and the only to seamlessly integrate world-facing advocacy and industry-facing support. We exist to bring the industry together to create a vibrant future for all. We grow our member’s prosperity by conducting advocacy; connecting people and ideas; and offering guidance that allows us all to?take action?with purpose and confidence.? While IFPA is built on the legacy of United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association, it is not just a combination. It is transformational. Recognizing the industry required an even more powerful and unified voice, the leaders of the former United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association chose not to merge, but rather to create an entirely new organization to supersede their organizations, effective January 1, 2022.