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    Congress to Expand USDA Pilot Fruit and Vegetable Program to All States

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., yesterday introduced the Health Nutrition for America's Children's Act that looks at new ways to expand the popular USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program to all 50 states.

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., yesterday introduced the Health Nutrition for America's Children's Act that looks at new ways to expand the popular USDA Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program to all 50 states. Last week senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced bill S. 1393, which will expand the pilot program nationally and encompass more than 1 million children.

    "The action taken in the United States House and Senate demonstrates Congress' recognition of the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption for children," said Tom Stenzel, president of the United produce trade association. "This program is quickly becoming the cornerstone for exposing school children to fresh fruit and vegetable snacks that can lead to healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. It is imperative that it be expanded across the nation."

    In a hearing last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona testified about obesity, the fastest-growing cause of disease and death in America. Through the Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, children can try new fruits and vegetables, learn healthy food choices, and make decisions about their future eating habits to help fight the growing epidemic of overweight among schoolchildren.

    The stand-alone legislation in the House and Senate will be considered as part of a larger legislative effort on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, scheduled to be completed during the 108th Congress. "It is vital that schoolchildren across the nation have the opportunity to participate in this program, because it is producing direct results to improve schoolchildren's eating habits," Stenzel said.

    The original Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, authorized during the Farm Bill, is operating in 25 schools in each of four states and in seven schools on the Zuni Indian reservation in New Mexico. The pilot provides free fruit and vegetable snacks to school children during the day and has reportedly increased children's interest in fruits and vegetables, consumption of more fruits and vegetables in the school lunch program, and increased awareness of healthy eating patterns in schoolchildren.

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