Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today announced that Michigan schools will have increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which seeks to combat childhood obesity and hunger by providing free, fresh fruits and vegetables to children throughout the school day. Chairwoman Stabenow played a leading role in strengthening the program as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, and calls the initiative one of the most important efforts in both fighting obesity and hunger while also investing in the economy by relying on growers and producers to meet the demand for fruits and vegetables created by the program.
"The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program teaches our kids how to eat healthy and keeps them nourished throughout the school day so they can focus on what's important," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "And this program is more critical now than ever. At a time when families are facing economic uncertainty and are having a hard time making ends meet, this program helps to relieve some of the stress associated with the food costs and promotes economic growth by investing in our growers and agricultural producers. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'm committed to providing access to healthy and nutritious food and giving producers the tools they need to create jobs and grow the economy."
Agriculture supports one out of every four jobs in Michigan and is the second largest industry in the state, bringing in more than $71 billion a year. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program will continue bolstering the state's robust agricultural sector in the 2011/2012 school year, helping schools across the state to purchase more than $4 million of fruits and vegetables for students.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, authorized and funded under Section 19 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and expanded in recent years as a result of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, operates in selected low-income elementary schools in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.