Institute Of Medicine Recommends More Fruits And Vegetables For School Meals
by Patrick Delaney, United Fresh Produce Association
Posted: 2009-10-28 15:32:59 EST

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United Fresh Produce Association applauds the Institute of Medicine’s School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children report released today. Increasing both the amount and the variety of vegetables and fruits that schools offer in meals is one of IOM’s top recommendations contained in the report for improving the healthfulness of school meals. During a press conference this morning, the chair of the IOM’s Committee on Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs noted the report’s goal of improving children’s health and fostering healthy eating habits. The recommendations contained in the report are designed to bring school meals in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Dietary Reference Intakes.

Specific fruit and vegetable recommendations in the report include:

  • An increase in the amount of fruit offered in school breakfast to 1 cup per day for all students
  • An increase in the amount of fruit offered in school lunch to 1 cup per day for students in grades 9-12
  • An increase in the amount of vegetables offered in school lunch to ≤ cup per day for grades K-8 and to 1 cup per day for grades 9-12
  • An acknowledgement that improving the nutritional value of school meals by increasing servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains will increase the cost of breakfast by 25% and lunch by 9%
  • A requirement that students take at least one serving of fruit at breakfast and at least one serving of fruit or vegetable at lunch.

“The IOM’s recommendations are everything that we worked for,” said United Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra. “Today’s report means that more than 30 million students who eat school lunch every day will receive significantly more fruits and vegetables, as will the 10 million students who eat school breakfasts. In the wake of the CDC’s recent report that American kids aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, improving school meals is even more important than ever.” “This change is long overdue,” continued Dr. DiSogra. “It has been 14 years since the school meal nutrition standards were last updated”

United Fresh has long been at the forefront of the advocacy efforts for more fruits and vegetables in school meals, testifying twice before this IOM committee and at several USDA Listening Sessions on child nutrition.

In the coming weeks, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) plans to introduce the Children’s Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009 in Congress, supporting and reinforcing many of IOM’s recommendations and promoting salad bars as an effective strategy to increase student access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in lunch rooms and cafeterias. Additionally, United Fresh is currently working on Capitol Hill to build broad bipartisan support for strengthening fruit and vegetable policies in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.

“United Fresh appreciates the IOM Food and Nutrition Board’s strong leadership role in improving the healthfulness of school meals. With these recommendations, we are one step closer to establishing school lunch and breakfast as models of good nutrition,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.

“Now we look to USDA and the Congress to ensure that the recommendations made today are fully realized with proper funding and implementation in 100,000 schools nationwide.” United Fresh and public health groups are encouraging USDA to update school meal nutrition standards within the next 24 months.

For more on United Fresh’s efforts on child nutrition, please contact Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400 or ldisogra@unitedfresh.org.

Source: United Fresh Produce Association