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The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has submitted comments to the Child Nutrition Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service in support of its proposed rule to strengthen nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools. Citing recent Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) research revealing low daily produce consumption among children, the trade group urged the USDA to go beyond the proposed rule and further promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“This rule, when combined with the existing school lunch and breakfast standards, will expand access to fruits and vegetables and provide more opportunities for students to consume healthful options and present USDA with additional opportunities to promote the development of healthful eating habits,” explained Kathy Means, PMA VP of government relations and public affairs..
The proposed rule, “National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010,” applies nutrition standards in alliance with Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommendations beyond federally backed school meals programs to all foods sold in schools. Since the DGA recognizes that fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and thus encourage higher consumption, the rule proposes that fruits and vegetables be exempt from the proposed rule’s nutrient standards.
According to Means, the proposed exemption reinforces the message that fruits and vegetables are healthful, key components of foods available to students.
Despite its support for the proposed rule, PMA did take issue with USDA’s statement, in that implementation of nutrition standards for competitive foods would lead to a “potentially more expensive” mix of foods offered. The idea that healthful eating has to be costly is untrue, the organization responded, referencing its October 2010 produce pricing research finding that the DGA’s daily recommended nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables could be purchased for prices ranging from just 88 cents to $2.18.