Farmers help bring fruit and vegetable snacks to northern Ontario schools

News releases – originally printed in Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, January 26, 2011

Guelph ON, January 26, 2011 – Ontario’s horticulture farmers have banded together with the provincial government again this year to bring healthy fruit and vegetable snacks to school children in Northern Ontario. The Northern School Snack Program has launched its 19 week program at 110 elementary schools.

“The connection between food and health is undeniable,” says Brian Gilroy, an apple grower and Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA). “Fruits and vegetables are a key component of a healthy lifestyle and this school snack program is a great way of promoting awareness and increasing consumption by school children.”

Consistent availability of fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables can be a challenge for Ontario’s northern communities. This led to a launch of the program in 2006 as a pilot project following the release of several key reports that underlined the need for action against obesity.

The program is a partnership between the OFVGA, the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and the Health Units of Algoma and Porcupine districts. The OFVGA centrally sources fruit and vegetable snacks and co-ordinates delivery and distribution, which allows approximately 19,000 students to receive two servings per week for the duration of the program.

Produce served through the program includes strawberries, apples, mini-cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pears, apple slices, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, applesauce-blend cups, carrot sticks, sliced peppers, pineapple chunks, sweet snap peas, clementines, melon chunks and asparagus. Approximately 75 per cent of fruits and vegetables used in the school program are Ontario-grown, with the number being higher when supply allows.

“Our goal is to teach kids an appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables and help them learn how to make life-long healthy eating choices,” says Gilroy. “As farmers, we’re appreciative of our government and health unit partners to help us provide this program to elementary schools in Northern Ontario.”

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association is the voice of Ontario’s 7,500 fruit, vegetable, and greenhouse producers on issues affecting the horticulture sector.