August 27, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Daughter Tells Her Dad to Fight for Salad Bars in Schools

In my many years of attending USDA hearings, no one has ever given such a compelling testimony that the entire room erupted into applause when it was over. In this sense, Wednesday’s USDA hearing on child nutrition and one of our very own, Charles Wingard from Walter P. Rawl and Sons, made history.  Inspired by his 6 year old daughter, Mary Grace, who loves the salad bar in her elementary school and who passionately believes that every boy and girl should have a salad bar in their cafeteria, Charles traveled 8 hours to Atlanta last week to testify at the Child Nutrition Listening Session. Charles told the USDA officials, ‘Today is a big day for me because my daughter is starting first grade and I wanted to walk her to school. But when I asked her what I should do, she told me to go to the meeting in Atlanta to help other boys and girls get salad bars in their schools.’ 


Charles Wingard and his daughter Mary Grace

So that is just what Charles did. On a mission for both his daughter and the produce industry, Charles urged USDA officials to establish a national policy that encourages salad bars in all schools and to make funding available so schools can buy needed refrigeration and salad bar equipment so they can serve students more fresh fruits and vegetables. Charles, whose family farm grows collard greens, reinforced that school meals fall far short of the fruits and vegetables recommended in the Dietary Guidelines and urged everyone to work together to improve this situation in the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. When he was done testifying, more than 150 advocates and concerned parents in the audience burst out into applause. Charles Wingard is a member of United Fresh Produce Association’s Government Relations Council, but more significantly, he is a true produce industry leader and an inspiration to all of us.  I wonder if Mary Grace is ready to lead a student advocacy salad bar letter writing campaign to Members of Congress?

There are many other United Fresh members who have testified on behalf of the produce industry at child nutrition hearings across the country and in our fight to provide more fruits and vegetables to children, they are champions too.  Special thanks to Beth Bland from Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association for also testifying in Atlanta.  If you are interested in testifying at the upcoming hearings in Denver and Chicago in early September, please contact me. - Dr. Lorelei DiSogra is vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh


From Presidential Conventions to the WPPC Stage
Right now, the Democrats are in Denver and next week, the Republicans are in Minneapolis.  On September 12th, both parties will be in Washington, DC for the First Produce Industry Presidential Debate.  During the upcoming Washington Public Policy Conference, representatives from the Obama and McCain presidential campaigns will take the stage to share their party's perspectives as their candidates vie for the position of Commander in Chief.  WPPC attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear the candidates’ positions on issues that matter to the produce industry such as small business concerns, trade and tax policy, transportation infrastructure, nutrition and health issues, and food safety policy.  Whether you're a Democrat, Republican or Independent or undecided, you'll enjoy this insider's look at the candidates, as we gear up for the November Presidential elections.  But you must be registered to attend – so don't miss this year's WPPC, September 10-12, 2008.  To register visit United Fresh website, or contact United Fresh Grassroots and Policy Manager Angela Bezon at 202-303-3400 ext. 416.

Spinach and Iceberg Lettuce Cleared for Irradiation, says FDA
On Friday August 22, 2008 in a final rule published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced it is amending the food additive regulations to provide for the use of irradiation in fresh iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach.  In response to recent food safety outbreaks, FDA’s decision to allow the radiation of these two commodities is aimed at eliminating the presence of harmful bacteria and extending product shelf life. These low doses of radiation are said to eliminate the presence of E.coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria.  FDA also contends that the irradiating procedures will not impact the safety or nutrient values of raw spinach and iceberg lettuce.  According to the regulation, FDA requires that all irradiated produce to be labeled.  Quoted in an article in the Wall Street Journal, United Fresh senior vice president, public policy, Robert Guenther, stated “It’snot likely that irradiation will be widely used for these commodities in the near future, but we support looking at any technology or systems that might enhance food safety.  While we're pleased that FDA has approved this petition, the decision on whether to use the technology will have a lot more to do with product quality and processing systems than just this regulatory approval.  If a company does use irradiation, we believe it should be disclosed to the consumer so they have any obvious choice when selecting the product.”  For more information, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at (202) 303-3409 or Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at (202) 303-3411.

Penn State Senior Joins United Fresh for Fall Internship
United Fresh welcomed Intern, Emily Murphy, to the association this week.   Emily is currently a senior at the Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Agri-business Management with minors in political science and international business.  Over the next semester, Emily will work closely with United Fresh Government Relations and Food Safety Staff to better understand the unique legislative and regulatory issues facing the fresh produce industry.  Emily comes to the association with a diverse background, including two summer internships with Wegmans Food Markets.  Her first summer was spent in the store where she helped to recruit new farmers into the homegrown produce program.  This past summer she interned in the Wegmans distribution center in Pottsville, PA, learning about produce at a supply chain level, and had the opportunity to work on quality assurance programs, communication strategies with suppliers and dispatchers, and even develop an efficiency program to ensure freshness to top selling produce items.  In her spare time, Emily likes to spend time in upstate New York on Keuka Lake and in the winter, enjoys skiing whenever there is a snowfall.  Her new favorite sport, however, is skydiving, so keep an eye out (or up!) for Emily.

Get One of the Best Views of the Capitol
This year’s United FreshPAC event will take place on the rooftop terrace of the Washington, D.C. Charlie Palmer Steak House, featuring breathtaking views of the U.S. Capitol.  You won’t want to miss it!  While gazing over the city, you'll enjoy mingling with produce industry friends and private entertainment from the very funny Capitol Steps, all while supporting the United FreshPAC.  The Capitol Steps began as a group of congressional and administration staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them.  "The Capitol Steps make it easier to leave public life,” said Former President George H. W. Bush.  No political figure (or produce industry member) is off limits to their humor.  Most importantly, your contribution to this event provides FreshPAC an opportunity to help elect, and re-elect pro-produce congressional candidates.  Contribute at least $250 per person to the United FreshPAC and join us on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. for a very entertaining night!  For more information, call Angela Bezon at 202-303-3416.

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Avendra, LLC, Rockville, MD
  • Barker Produce, Mesila Park, NM
  • CAADES Sinaloa, Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico
  • Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • Ger-Nis International, LLC, Brooklyn, NY
  • J. Parker & Sons, Inc., Akron, OH
  • SanGar Fresh Cut Produce Co., LLC, San Antonio, TX
  • Sons Packaging, Akron, OH
  • The Texas Extension Education Foundation, College Station, TX
United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman, joberman@unitedfresh.org

News and Views
Kids Follow Parents' Lead on Fruits and Vegetables
A new study shows that parents should eat fruits and vegetables if they would like their young children to follow.  The study showed that when parents consumed more fruits and vegetables, the children would also eat a more nutritious diet.

WIC to Offer Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
The WIC program will soon provide healthier food choices.  Currently the program pays for foods like milk and cheese, but soon fresh fruits and vegetables will be added.

Lack of Pickers Means Apples Will Rot
British apple farmers are concerned that labor shortages could force them to leave apples rotting on trees.  The government has restrictions on the number of foreign workers allowed to pick on British farms.

Chiquita Enters Value-Added Produce Market in China
Chiquita Brands International announced a joint venture with Haitong Food Group Co., Ltd. for processing, sale and marketing of value-added fresh produce in China.

Grant to Help Maryland Schools Promote Fresh Produce to Students
The USDA has provided a grant to Maryland schools to promote fresh produce to students. Across the state, 25 schools are participating in the program.

Program Helps Fill the Fridge
A growing numbers of families on the WIC program are using federally funded vouchers for fresh produce.  To boost locally grown produce and local farmers, Congress created the Farmers’ Market Coupon Program.                          

Growers Use Web to Tout Organic Produce
A new way organic farmers are selling their produce is through the internet, which creates a direct link from farm to consumer.

Foods Stamps Come to More Farmers Markets
Farmers markets around the country are accepting food stamps for summer produce.  This creates more income for local farmers and healthier options for low-income families.