March 11, 2022
U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released text of the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill overnight on March 9, 2022. The bill is expected to be voted on right away by the House of Representatives.
“It is a good day for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. We applaud leadership for including the bump up in fruit and vegetable benefits to increase nutritional security for families and children,” said International Fresh Produce Association Vice President of Nutrition & Health Mollie Van Lieu. “Securing this increase has been a top priority for us this year and we appreciate Congress recognizing that the additional produce benefit has delivered on increasing consumption for children and moving fresh produce through the supply chain.”
The bill also includes funding for the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health – something IFPA has been advocating for years. The last conference was held more than 50 years ago.
“Given our nation’s overweight and obesity crisis, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic where we saw the devastating consequences of diet-related chronic disease on COVID-19 outcomes – the time is now for the federal government to take a serious and systemic approach to improving our nation’s dietary quality,” added Van Lieu. “The fresh produce industry is ready and willing to serve as partners to achieve the White House Conference goals.”
One provision that the bill does not include are waivers for school meal programs that have allowed schools to serve meals at no charge to students throughout the pandemic. IFPA remains concerned about the impact on our school nutrition members and the millions of children – across every community in the United States – who depend on these nutritious meals. IFPA will work with stakeholders to ensure that school nutrition programs have the resources they need during this challenging time.
IFPA will continue to work with policymakers on these issues, as well advocating for policies that increase access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, including aligning school meals, WIC, SNAP, and USDA purchasing programs, with Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations.