IFPA and White House Conference Converge

They say there’s strength in numbers. Each year, IFPA’s annual Washington Conference serves as the prime example of this, with hundreds of produce industry professionals uniting in the nation’s capital to advocate for the industry’s most pressing business and public policy priorities. The 2022 IFPA Washington Conference included a focus on the economy, supply chain, labor, the ever-present need for immigration reform, food safety developments, and the upcoming Farm Bill. But given the convergence of timing with this year’s historic White House Conference on Nutrition, Hunger, and Health, one priority in particular was in the spotlight: creating new opportunities to elevate fresh fruit and vegetables as essential to good nutrition and investing in new opportunities to increase access to fresh produce for children and communities in greatest need.

United in advocacy

Of the more than 450 attendees at the 2022 Washington Conference, there were more than a dozen individuals representing an important buyside customer and public policy ally. After hosting a significant number of K-12 school nutrition leaders at this summer’s Foodservice Conference, IFPA made the decision to continue these collaborations and invite a select group to participate in the Washington Conference. 

With the support of industry partners, including Arctic Apples – Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Grimmway Farms, HMC Farms, SunFed, and The Healthy Family Project, IFPA hosted 15 school foodservice directors, creating opportunities for them to participate in conference programming, network with produce industry leaders, and advocate with USDA officials and legislators on Capitol Hill, for programs and policies to increase children’s access to fresh produce in their schools.

“Having this opportunity to participate together in meetings with policymakers was such a valuable experience, highlighting how the produce industry and school partners can and should work together to support a healthier generation of children,” said Andrew Marshall, IFPA’s staff liaison for wholesaler-distributor members, and lead staffer on engagement opportunities with the K-12 school nutrition community.  

IFPA and school foodservice leaders used these meetings as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for expanding the number and types of schools that can offer the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). IFPA would like to see the program made available to all elementary schools (and potentially older grades) that qualify under the Community Eligibility Provision, an expansion that would more than double the number of low-income students who could receive in-class produce snacks as part of the program. 

“The FFVP is such an impactful program, introducing our youngest students to fresh fruit and vegetables, sometimes beyond what’s typically available in our breakfast and lunch programs. The FFVP can also be helpful for getting students to think about choosing a fruit or vegetable when considering future snack choices, and hopefully ask for these same healthy options at home,” said Amanda Miller, Director of Food, Nutrition and Logistics Services at the Des Moines Public Schools, who attended the conference and participated in meetings with her produce distributor, Loffredo Fresh Foods. “Our families are aware we offer this program and value its benefits. We would love to provide this opportunity for more schools in our district.”  

IFPA is the lead advocate for the FFVP, helping to envision and create this program nearly 20 years ago. The former United Fresh Produce Association worked to establish the program as a small pilot program in a handful of states and then successfully advocated for national expansion of the FFVP in the 2008 Farm Bill. Since that time, the association has worked to educate legislators about the impactful child nutrition program, while also ensuring its integrity as program dedicated to introducing children to a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables they have often never tried or were not aware of. 

“Congress will be working on the 2023 Farm Bill in the coming year and the FFVP will be one of the programs that’s under review,” said Mollie Van Lieu, IFPA’s vice president for nutrition and health. “With childhood obesity and rates of diabetes and other diet-related disease on the rise, all while many families struggle to make ends meet, there’s never been a more important time to ensure kids are introduced to fresh produce at school where they spend most of their time and consume the majority of their daily calories.”

Making IFPA’s moonshot a reality

This summer, IFPA submitted to the White House an eight-point fruit and vegetable priority list, or moonshot, in preparation for the White House Conference on Nutrition, Hunger, and Health. These recommendations outline how fresh fruits and vegetables can, and must, be an integral part of the U.S. nutrition security blueprint. One of the priorities includes expanding the FFVP.

When IFPA’s moonshot recommendations were submitted, it was still to be determined, when the White House Conference would take place. However, when it was announced that the event would occur on the final day of the IFPA Washington Conference, it seems as if the stars were aligning. Not only would many produce leaders be in DC, sharing the produce industry’s message on Capitol Hill, but plans had also already been put in motion with the school nutrition leaders. IFPA knew there could be a chance for them to participate in the White House Conference and carry forward the shared FFVP message, and the school nutrition leaders were indeed ultimately invited to the White House event.

Additionally, in the days leading up to the White House Conference, IFPA was tasked with developing ideas for how the produce industry could contribute to the overall Conference goals, supporting in a way that was beyond the purview of the federal government’s capabilities. As a result, three IFPA commitments were unveiled at the White House Conference. 

  1. Launch a new public database in 2023 called Produce in the Public Interest to house and disseminate research about fruit and vegetable consumption with a focus on identifying and mitigating barriers to improving national eating habits.
  2. Produce and disseminate culturally informed, consumer-friendly resources to improve the public’s nutrition literacy
  3. Facilitate a public-private partnership with the Partnership for a Healthier America, in Indianapolis and Denver, to double residents’ consumption of fruits and vegetables by 2030 – and then use lessons learned, as a model to move to additional cities.

Just the beginning

The 2022 Washington Conference and the convergence of the White House Conference on Nutrition, Hunger, and Health was truly a historic week for child nutrition and for the future of the produce industry. Between this year’s Washington Conference participants, including produce industry leaders, elected officials, expert policymakers, school nutrition partners, and so many others, there were many new connections and ideas exchanged. It’s clear the work is only just beginning. Attendees of the IFPA Washington Conference left the nation’s capital with a renewed optimism and inspiration for the opportunities that are to come.

Thank you to our sponsors

Article Sponsor Logos

Related Resources