Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA will expand assistance to state agencies for schools operating USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the 2011/2012 school year. Depending on enrollment and the allotment spent on each child, USDA estimates the expanded assistance could help schools serve an additional 600,000 to 950,000 students fresh fruit and vegetables during the school year.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program has expanded in recent years and now operates in selected low-income elementary schools in each state, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. This year, USDA plans to provide $158 million in assistance to state agencies. States then select schools to participate based on criteria in the law, including the requirement that each student receives between $50 and $75 worth of fresh produce over the school year.
The United Fresh Produce Association has voiced its excitement following the announcement. Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, Vice President of Nutrition and Health for United Fresh says this expansion in funding is such a huge win for kids across the country.
"The additional monies will increase the number of elementary school students that receive a fresh fruit or vegetable snack at school each day to approximately four million, which is just amazing," DiSogra said. "This program provides exposure to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, expanding kids' horizons and increasing their daily consumption of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables."
DiSogra says this program is very popular. It's a hit with the kids, with the parents and with the schools, and it's having an undeniably positive effect not only on the way kids eat at school but also on their eating habits at home.