Canned or fresh: Congress enters the debate

House lobbies for canned fruits and vegetables to qualify for program.

Aug. 7—The fight over school lunch is far from over. The newest battle concerns allowing canned fruits and vegetables to qualify under a program that traditionally distributed only fresh produce to schools. 

Since its creation a decade ago, the program has been distributing free fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks to elementary schools that have a high percentage of low-income children, a group that typically has less exposure to fresh produce and does not consume anywhere near the amount recommended by national dietary guidelines.

Advocates of the House legislation say schools should have access to produce in all forms. The frozen, canned and dried varieties are often more affordable than fresh produce, they argue, and their inclusion would enable schools to provide a wider range of options year-round.