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. 

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Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

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