Lawmaker authored the 2002 pilot program and then expanded it in 2008 farm bill. |WASHINGTON, D.C. ñ Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement on a USDA announcement that it will expand assistance to state agencies for schools participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This year, USDA will provide $158 million nationwide to state agencies ñ over $2.3 million to Harkin’s home state of Iowa ñ who in turn provide the funding to schools participating in the program. As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Harkin authored the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the 2002 farm bill as a pilot program to bring healthy foods to children at school. Because of the rapid success of the program, in the 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act), Harkin was able to expand the program nationwide with a focus on elementary schools with a high proportion of low-income students. When the 2008 bill’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is fully implemented, it will reach as many as 3 million elementary school children nationwide.
“As our nation works to ensure the health and nutrition of our children, one of the simplest things we can do is provide students with healthy, delicious alternatives to unhealthy snacks,” said Harkin. “The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program does just that by bringing fresh produce into schools ñ particularly to low-income students who may not otherwise have access to these nutritious foods. The program has shown to be a tremendous success. Both teachers and parents notice a change in student behavior and attentiveness, and kids love the great-tasting snacks. At the same time, we are reducing long-term health care costs by raising a generation of children less likely to get sick or develop a chronic illness such as diabetes.
“I commend Secretary Vilsack for his hard work in implementing the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and for his tireless efforts to promote the health of America’s children. As we begin initial discussions on the next farm bill, it is my hope that we will be able to expand this program even further and that we continue to work on other programs that increase the health and well-being of our nation’s children.”