Agriculture Press Release

August 25, 2003

‘Fresh-2-U’ Encourages elementary students to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables

Florida program seeks to combat childhood obesity and diet-related health problems

TALLAHASSEE -- Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol were once considered health problems that affected only adults. Today, however, it’s not uncommon to see these and other serious diet-related ailments developing in young people -- some as young as elementary and middle school age.

The reason for this disturbing trend is the growing number of overweight and obese children. The percentage of American children who are overweight, obese or at risk has more than doubled in the last 30 years, and now includes one-fifth of children aged 6-19 years. This increases the likelihood of another generation of overweight and obese adults at risk for serious health problems including coronary heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, today’s children are likely to become the first generation of Americans to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

In an effort to reverse the trend of overweight and obese children, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has partnered with the Florida Department of Education to create the Fresh-2-U program, which promotes positive eating habits among Florida’s elementary school children.

Fresh-2-U encourages young people to try 20 different fresh fruits and vegetables over the course of the school year, with the goal of developing healthy eating habits that include eating five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day, as recommended by leading health organizations.

“Improving eating habits to last a lifetime -- that’s the focus of the Fresh-2-U program,”
said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson. “Fresh-2-U engages parents and teachers to teach children the importance of healthy eating. Children must learn about good nutrition while they’re young to help them avoid obesity and diet-related health problems that likely will worsen as they become adults.”

The Fresh-2-U program begins next month in all Florida public elementary schools and will target 1.2 million students in grades 1-5. Using a Report Card to log their progress, students are encouraged to try two different fresh fruits or vegetables each month, from September through June. The Fresh-2-U program encourages children and their parents to visit their grocery store’s produce section together and try the featured food items in meals at home.

In addition, lunchroom posters will promote each month’s two featured fruits and vegetables. Fresh-2-U music videos promoting themes of good nutrition and food safety will be shown at schools. School lunch menus will feature more fresh fruits and vegetables, and salad bars will be prominently featured in several schools’ cafeterias.

“We’ve provided school food service personnel with preparation guides for including fresh produce in their school menus,” said Florida Education Commissioner Jim Horne. “This is part of our goal to improve the nutritional value of school lunches by increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

The 275-page Florida School Food Service Guide was distributed to school food service directors in all school districts in Florida. The guide contains information on handling fresh produce, customer service, recipes using fresh produce, and preparation tips. The Florida School Food Service Guide is being used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the model for a national guide that will be made available to other states.

“We want to attract children to eat lunch in the cafeteria and help them make nutritious choices once there,” Horne said. “Many of today’s youth are not making the best food choices, and some are not eating lunch at all. We need to turn this around by providing an atmosphere in school where children enjoy fresh, nutritious selections that are attractively presented.”

The Florida Department of Education is providing information for school food service personnel on its Food and Nutrition Management web site at http://fnm.doe.state.fl.us.

More information about the Fresh-2-U program is available on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services web site at www.Fresh-From-Florida.org. The site -- which is useful to students, parents and teachers -- contains information about the 20 featured fruits and vegetables, coloring pages, photographs, music videos, and links to other resources for learning more about good nutrition and Florida agriculture.

“Parents and teachers are the most important sources of information for a child,” Bronson said. “Fresh-2-U promotes interaction between parents, children and teachers with the goal of helping children develop healthy eating habits. Fresh-2-U challenges children to explore and try new things. Trying new foods in a fun, family setting is a great way for children to discover that they’re good.”

The Fresh-2-U program was funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Florida’s five largest retail grocers -- Albertsons, Kash n’ Karry, Publix, Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie -- are supporting the Fresh-2-U program by displaying shelf cards in their produce sections identifying each month’s featured fresh fruits and vegetables.

These colorful shelf cards, produced by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, reflect the images and themes of the Fresh-2-U Report Card and school lunchroom posters and are designed to help students and their parents easily identify each month’s featured items.

“We’re pleased that the largest grocery retailers in Florida have partnered with our Department in this important program,” Bronson said. “We want children to accompany their parents to their local market and ‘discover’ the produce section together. Seeing and selecting fresh produce in the store, preparing it at home, and enjoying it in a family meal can have lasting impact on improving children’s eating habits.”

“Getting kids to eat right is a challenge,” said Larry Wahlstrom, President of Albertsons. “According to the USDA, the diet quality of most children ages 2 9 is less than optimal. That is why Albertsons is partnering with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to help support the Fresh 2 U campaign. We want to help kids score an ‘A’ on their fruit and vegetable report card. Trying new fruits and vegetables should be fun, flavorful, fulfilling and unforgettable!”

“High quality fruits and vegetables are the key to teaching kids to enjoy a healthful diet,” said Camille Branch Turley, Kash n’ Karry’s Manager of Corporate Communications.
“Kash n’ Karry, the place for unsurpassed produce, is proud to partner with Fresh 2 U. With our quality and variety, we bring excitement to the table!”

“Wal Mart is proud to support the Fresh 2 U program,” said Tom Holbert, Produce Regional Buyer for Wal Mart.

“Keeping kids healthy is important to Winn Dixie,” said Dennis Hanley, President of Produce and Floral Merchandising for Winn-Dixie. “Getting kids to choose fruits and vegetables more often is a great start. The Fresh 2 U program offers kids a fun way to eat more fruits and vegetables, and we’re pleased to support this effort.”

NOTE TO MEDIA: High-resolution images of the Fresh-2-U nutritional campaign can be downloaded from the web at florida-agriculture.com/photos. The 23 Fresh-2-U image files are numbered 08-25-03a through 08-25-03w.

Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022


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