WASHINGTON, D.C. - United Fresh is cheering news in the Federal Register that USDA published the long-awaited proposed rule to align school meals with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and the Institute of Medicine's recommendations, focusing heavily on fresh produce.

"Fruits and vegetables are the stars of USDA's goal for healthier school meals, and kids and the produce industry will benefit," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health. "The proposed rule would double the amount of fruits and vegetables served to the 32 million kids who eat school lunch every day, for 180 school days a year."

The proposed rule closely follows the recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine and includes doubling the amount of fruit served in school breakfast; doubling the amount of fruits and vegetables served in school lunch; and emphasizing variety of vegetables. Additionally, all schools would be expected to implement the proposed rule beginning in school year 2012-13.

The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in fifteen years and will help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. Together with the recently passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, this rule will result in a dramatic increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables available to school children.

While the initial analysis of the proposed rule is very positive for fruits and vegetables, there are still many details to examine that will impact the industry. United Fresh will be forming a working group to review the rule and provide comprehensive comments back to USDA within the 90-day comment period.

SOURCE: United Fresh Produce Association