- United States Department of Agriculture
- Like these kids in Arlington, Virginia, Idaho schoolchildren will continue to experience fresh fruits and vegetables up close.
For the past 11 years, Boise schools have relied on the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to instill healthy habits and adventurous palates in students. However, recent talk of a revised funding mechanism at the federal level had administrators worried funding for FFVP would be reduced or eliminated for the 2017-18 school year.
“Every one of our schools that had [FFVP] last year was very eager—enthusiastically eager—to continue with the program,” said Peggy Bodnar, Food and Nutrition Services supervisor for the Boise School District. If the new funding method of block grants is put in place, she added, “[FFVP] is going to be one of the first things to go.”
But those worries proved unfounded: When the grant announcement was finally made July 18, more than two weeks late, 113 Idaho schools—including 15 in Boise, 11 in Nampa, eight in Caldwell and two in the West Ada School District—had been funded to the tune of more than $2.1 million for the 2017-’18 school year.
The program provides money for fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to elementary schools with a high population of kids from low-income families, introducing them to healthy foods they might not have access to at home. In Boise schools, the snacks—a mix of local produce like asparagus and cherries, and exotics like dragon fruit and rambutan—are presented to classrooms in hand-delivered baskets alongside food facts and nutrition information.
Beyond introducing kids to new foods, FFVP has a nationwide record of reducing childhood obesity and, in Idaho, of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption at other meals.
Bodnar said shifting to block grants and potentially losing the program would come as a blow to schoolchildren. Other FFVP advocates are likewise troubled by block grants, which use historical data to determine a set allocation of funds for each state, because they aren’t sensitive to economic changes. In a rough year, funds may be spread so thin that only essential programs like school lunch will be covered. If that happens, ancillary grants like FFVP would be viewed as luxuries and their funding would be in danger.
Although FFVP survived another year, block granting is still an option for the future. However, Bodnar remains optimistic about the program going forward.
“It’s my understanding that [the funds] even went up a little, and that’s an awesome sign,” she said. “Hopefully as a nation we continue to feel that feeding kids is important.”