Produce industry lauds proposed school nutrition regulations

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) submitted formal comments in support of the rule Monday, arguing it would expand students’ access to healthier foods.

“Schools are an important environment that can shape children’s health and long-term eating habits,” the group wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

The PMA, which represents produce growers, shippers, importers and retailers, cited research showing that fewer than 15 percent of kids get the recommended servings of fruits, and less than 20 percent eat the recommended servings of vegetables.

“This evidence underscores that more can (and should) be done to increase students’ access to healthful foods,” the group wrote.

Similar rules overhauling nutrition standards for regular meals have come under fire from conservative lawmakers, one of whom compared the regulations to “The Hunger Games.”

In its proposal for the snack rule, the Agriculture Department also suggested it may be cost more for schools to meet the new nutrition guidelines. But the PMA disputed the suggestion that healthier foods are prohibitively expensive.

“We disagree with USDA’s position on this issue, at least as it relates to fruits and vegetables,” the group wrote.