To the Editor:
Recently, I introduced the Fruit and Vegetable Access for Children Act to allow schools to use the money from USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) to purchase all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
Maine farmers produce some of the highest quality fruits and vegetables in the country – such as our famous potatoes and blueberries. There is no reason why these products shouldn’t be enjoyed and provided to communities and students around the United States.
By enabling schools to serve fruits and vegetables in a variety of forms, we are not only increasing the market for Maine’s hardworking farmers to sell their products, but we are teaching children that nutritious foods come in many different sizes, shapes, colors and packages – from frozen blueberries to canned peas to fresh peaches and dried apricots.
According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, there is overwhelming nutritional consensus that Americans should increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned and dried). In their various forms, fruits and vegetables are nutritionally similar. The FFVP’s goal is to educate children on the foods they eat. By including “all forms” of fruits and vegetables, we ensure they have a comprehensive education.
I remember when I was raising my son, nothing mattered more to me than his health and well-being. I was very mindful of the meals we ate and the food we purchased. As a parent, I believe it’s very important for our kids to have the opportunity to eat delicious fruits and vegetables, such as Maine blueberries and strawberries, all school year round.
Maine already has experienced a successful pilot program in which it purchases frozen fruits and vegetables. I would like to expand these options to schools nationwide by allowing schools to maximize their FFVP program dollars.
Additionally, high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t available year-round in every part of the country, and expanding this program ensures that schools have the options they need to continue to encourage a healthy diet throughout the school year.
The price of fruits and vegetables increases after the growing season is over. Allowing more food to be frozen and served later will mean that schools can afford nutritionally-equivalent food throughout the year.
As a parent and Maine’s 2nd District congressman, I will urge my colleagues to join me in helping our kids have the opportunity to enjoy fruits and vegetables all school year round.
Rep. Bruce Poliquin