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PMA Launches Classroom Initiative

Did you get My Weekly Reader as a kid? Well PMA has come up with $500,000 to support a partnership with My Weekly Reader’s publisher Scholastic Inc. to encourage produce consumption among children:

Photo left to right: Terry Humfeld, PMA; Peter Goulet, Pinnacle Sales & Marketing and Chairman Produce Marketing Association; Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission and Chairman Produce For Better Health Foundation; Mike O’Brien, Schnuck Markets; Elizabeth Pivonka, Produce for Better Health Foundation

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has announced a half-million dollar partnership with Scholastic Inc. to encourage the nation’s school children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. This classroom-based initiative supports Produce for Better Health’s (PBH) “Campaign for Children’s Health.”

The four-year InSchool program is designed to reach more than 300,000 kids and 450,000 parents in its first year alone with messages that promote consumption and safe food handling. When the program launches in October, 2007, more than 10,000 teachers of grades 3 and 4 will receive curriculum-ready information and resources on how to make fruits and vegetables fun for kids to consume. Each year the number of teachers, students, and their families who will receive the materials will increase. By the end of the 2010 more than 70,000 teachers will have incorporated consumption messages into classroom lessons for more than 2 million of their students and more than 3 million family members.

“Produce Marketing Association is excited about supporting Produce for Better Health’s (PBH) ‘Campaign for Children’s Health’ through our partnership with Scholastic Inc., a world leader in educating children. We want children to experience first hand that fruits and vegetables taste great and are fun to eat,” said PMA president Bryan Silbermann. “Reaching children and their Gen X parents through the trusted sources of teachers and Scholastic Corporation is invaluable to helping them become life-long produce consumers.”

“Children are quite open to information and experiences at this young age. Classroom materials and those that will be taken home will emphasize the flavor and fun of eating produce. Because parents of children in this age group grew up with Scholastic materials that were both enjoyable and educational, we believe the materials will be very well received,” said Produce for Better Health president Elizabeth Pivonka.

The program will tie in messaging from Produce for Better Health (PBH) and Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE) that promotes veggie and fruit consumption and safe food handling. The program will launch in early October each year, a time when teachers are most likely to be receptive to new supplemental materials they can use throughout the school year.

“Aligning with the Partnership for Food Safety Education’s produce safe handling procedures is a key component to this initiative. The sooner children begin practicing safe handling, such as rinsing produce before eating it, the more likely it is these practices will become life-long habits,” said PFSE executive director Shelley Feist.

Year 1 will initiate the multi-year outreach program with print and online components, followed by years 2, 3, and 4 which will annually reestablish the program among additional teachers, kids, and parents. The program will also be available on the Web for teachers to download throughout the four-year program.

Components of the program include an 8-panel poster, a teaching guide, and a two-page piece for children to use at home with their families. The family component of the program is designed to encourage bonding and the integration of school lessons into everyday home life.

Few causes are more unanimously endorsed in this business than trying to boost consumption among children. The tie-in with Scholastic Inc. is clever and the addition of basic food safety techniques timely. As we launch Fruits & Veggies — More Matters, this is a great way to support PBH’s Campaign for Children’s Health.

So congrats to everyone associated with this initiative. Now we have but one request:

Can we please use some of the money to do baseline and follow-up research on children both exposed to the Scholastic program and a control group not exposed to the materials? This way we can actually determine if the program is having an effect on consumption. If the program tests as effective, it is very important that the research go on for several years after the children outgrow the reach of the Scholastic program because we want to know if we have successfully changed long-term eating habits.

For information on another program focused on getting children to eat more produce, read our piece Food Dudes Beat Junk Punks And Kids Eat More Produce.

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