Incredible Accomplishments. Incredible Opportunities.
Dear Produce Industry Colleagues,
In starting the new year with gratitude, it is with sincere thanks and appreciation that I share that our end of year Season of Giving Back campaign has raised more than $90,000 to advance United Fresh Start Foundation’s mission to increase access to fresh produce for children and families in-need.
This pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges of getting fresh, healthy food to children and families in underserved communities. It also has created a new segment of society that’s now reliant on the tireless work of food banks and other organizations to help their neighbors in-need.
Over the past nine months, the United Fresh Start Foundation has been actively engaged in efforts to keep the supply chain moving. While many know the Foundation for our successful decade-long Salad Bars to Schools program, COVID-19 school closures required us to restructure our support efforts, offering technical assistance and other guidance for new school feeding options, as well as collaborating with community and industry partners to navigate the systemic changes in the food system.
Highlights of our work over the past year include:
- Working with USDA on multiple nutrition programs that helped get fresh produce into the hands of children, including support for school meal flexibilities, enabling states to collectively transfer millions of dollars in unspent USDA Foods entitlement dollars into fresh produce purchases through the USDA-DoD Fresh Program, making available Pandemic-EBT temporary SNAP benefits for children out of school and other related support.
- Disseminating $25,000 in Rapid Response FRESH Grants to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for children and families, while also creating opportunities for foodservice distributors experiencing lost markets due to restaurant, hospitality and school shutdowns.
- Encouraging USDA to issue guidance and flexibilities that allowed thousands of schools to use their Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) dollars to offer fresh produce in alternative meal services, such as grab-and-go, curbside delivery and more.
- Engaging with USDA to develop the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, a win-win-win program for growers, distributors and people in need, while also encouraging USDA to allow distributions to occur at school meal pick-up sites. Between May and December, the program has facilitated over 132 million food boxes.
- Hosting more than 25 online webinars, video interviews and virtual networking sessions to connect school nutrition operators with United Fresh’s produce supplier members, coordinate best practices and support school produce needs.
Even with these accomplishments, there is still much work to be done in the year ahead and beyond.
As part of the recent release of the Dietary Guidelines, USDA and HHS data showed the sad reality that Americans’ eating habits haven’t changed for the better, despite decades of similar guidelines. We must make nutrition a priority in all government programs designed to support food-insecure Americans.
We will do so by identifying new opportunities to collaborate with the Biden Administration and Congress to fundamentally improve federal nutrition programs with more fruits and vegetables.
We’ll be working to advance the following priorities that put nutrition front and center, when considering how to grow produce consumption for all Americans, and especially those in greatest need:
- Drive federal feeding programs to truly follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- Support government and private sector efforts to achieve the goal of “Half the Plate” made up of fruits and vegetables
- Make permanent a program like Farmers to Families food boxes, delivering healthy fresh foods to food banks and other community non-profits that appeal to their constituents, as well as funding for adequate refrigeration and storage
- Ensure that schools have the financial resources, physical capability and leadership commitment to serve healthy fresh foods to children, whether in meals, snacks, after-school or summer feeding programs.
I have never been more proud to be Chair of the Foundation than I am today. We are optimistic that your continued engagement will help us bring these issues to the forefront in the year ahead.
Thank you for your support of the United Fresh Start Foundation, your commitment to advancing produce consumption and your help to create a new generation that’s Growing Up Fresh!