When “Fresh” Includes Frozen, Canned, Pureed, and Dried

By Steve Collins, Staff Writer, Maine Sun Journal

In a bid to “give our children greater access to healthy fruits and vegetables,” U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin aims to gut the government’s successful Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program by adding produce that’s frozen, canned, pureed or dried.

The proposal would allow almost any form of fruits and vegetables to count under the initiative created specifically to put fresh produce into the hands of children who attend schools in low-income areas in every state.

Poliquin’s proposal would open the door to more processed food that students don’t really need, said Curt Ellis, the co-founder of FoodCorps, a nonprofit focused on helping students eat more healthfully.

The fresh fruit and vegetable program is a tiny sliver of the overall school lunch program — less than $200 million of the more than $19 billion the federal government spends feeding students annually.

Schools in the 15-year-old government program get between $50 and $75 per student each year to buy fresh fruits and vegetables to serve as snacks during the day outside of the normal breakfast and lunch programs.

What’s important about it is that it provides students with a chance to experience the taste and crunch of eating something fresh, said Matt Russell, resilient agriculture coordinator at Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center in Iowa.