Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Give Peach a Chance—
Keep “Fresh” in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

800px-Autumn_Red_peaches

(Photo courtesy the Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

by Eric Bond

“A rose is a rose is a rose,” wrote Gertrude Stein, reflecting on the simple essence of most things. While her words evoke a basic, straightforward view of the world, they fail to account for some important distinctions.

For example, can we say that a peach is a peach is a peach—when one is freshly picked, another is canned in syrup, and yet another is mashed into a fruit bar and loaded with nonfruit fillers? These definitions of peachiness are at the heart of one of the provisions of the farm bill slated for renewal by September 30.

 

Under current farm law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides fresh fruits and vegetables to schools that have a high percentage of low-income children. According to an Aug. 7 Washington Post article, “[l]ast year the USDA spent $150 million to cover [fresh] snacks for up to 3 million kids” through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. A USDA study showed that the extra food from the program did not result in weight gain among the children, suggesting that those who chose the fresh produce ate it as a replacement for other snack choices, perhaps ones that are less nutritious.

In the Senate version of the farm bill, this program remains unchanged. However, under pressure by food industry lobbies like the American Frozen Food Institute, the House bill expands the program to include frozen, canned, and dried produce. Opponents see this proposal as undercutting the purpose of the program.

“There’s nothing [in the House bill] that would stop fruit cups with syrup and frozen Tater Tots with sodium,” said Matthew Marsom from the Public Health Institute [quoted in the Post article]. “You just don’t get those problems with fresh.”

A key component to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is educating children about nutrition. Surely, children should learn about the benefits and taste of fresh produce. And they should also learn about junk foods disguised as healthy foods. A chocolate-chip bejeweled granola bar or a can of sugar-soaked peaches has a place in life. But even Cookie Monster is now singing, “A cookie is a some time food.”

Besides the obvious nutritional benefits, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program provides low-income children—many of whom live in food deserts—the opportunity to eat the peach.

And there is no other thing like a juicy, fresh peach.

Resources

Eric Bond is managing editor at Bread for the World.

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Keep “Fresh” in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
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