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New Hampshire To Receive $1.9 Million In USDA Funding For Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Program In Schools

“A great step toward fighting childhood obesity in our state,” says HEAL NH Director, Terry Johnson

CONCORD, NH — An additional 11,000 students could be snacking on free fruits and vegetables at public schools next year, increasing the number to 35,000 children in New Hampshire, under grants announced March 23 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund its popular Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program.

The 2008 farm bill expanded funds for the fruit and vegetable snack program in New Hampshire to $1.9 million for the 2011-12 school year, up from $662,261 in 2008-09, the first year of the program. During that first year, 38 schools participated with 8,800 students in the program.

“We did not expect an increase, especially with the economy. We are pleased with the funding as it will allow us to offer this program to 136 schools for the upcoming year, up from 89 this year,” said Kathryn Hodges, Program Specialist for the NH Department of Education’s Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Services.

The Bureau of Nutrition Programs and Services is drafting the letters this week to inform these 47 additional schools that they now qualify for the program. The program is designed to give first priority to schools with at least 50% free and reduced populations, but the additional funds will include schools as low as 33%.

“Students love the program,” said Karen Hodges. “They are sampling new items and often this is the only time during their day that they get fresh fruits and vegetables. Several parents are so pleased they have contacted the schools to thank them for running the program.”

The Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program is offered to elementary students during the school day outside of meal hours at snack time or in the classroom. A nutrition education component is required, but not funded, and many schools coordinate it with their curriculum.

“The increased USDA funding for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program in New Hampshire allows more children to have access to healthier food choices,” said Terry Johnson, Director of Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL NH).  “Making healthy choices easy for our students is a great step toward fighting childhood obesity in our state.”

The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) NH Campaign began in 2008 and is led by the Foundation for Healthy Communities, a non-profit New Hampshire organization focused on improving health and healthcare through innovative partnerships. HEAL is supported by a collaboration of foundations and state agencies committed to promoting health and wellbeing for all New Hampshire residents. Funding is provided by HNHfoundation, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, Endowment for Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, NH Charitable Foundation, and NH Department of Health and Human Services. More information about the HEAL NH campaign can be found at www.healnh.org.

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If you would like more information about this topic or would like to schedule an interview, please contact Terry Johnson, Director, HEAL NH at tjohnson@healthynh.org or call (603) 415-4273.