Date: October 28, 2009
Location: Greenbelt Marriott Hotel, Greenbelt, MD
New initiatives in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) will introduce millions of additional dollars to provide fresh produce in school meals and snacks through the Farm Bill and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Fresh produce provided to schools will come through both conventional, large producers and through small, local producers. The increase in fresh produce will improve students' nutrient intake, but there is concern that it may cause a concomitant increased risk of foodborne illness. This concern arises from the fact that the past decade has seen a significant increase in the frequency of produce-associated outbreaks of human illness. In school settings, the fresh produce itself is a concern, but so are the novel ways that schools will procure and deliver these foods to students. Programs such as farm-to-school and the delivery of fresh produce in settings outside of the school cafeteria may pose new food safety concerns that must be addressed.
The purpose of this workshop was to identify where the risks might exist in the growing, harvesting, sorting, packing, finishing, and transporting of fresh produce, in both conventional and novel agricultural settings. Once the produce is in schools, the risks from the handling, preparing, and delivering by school food service personnel were identified. Mitigation steps were noted for both sides of the continuum, as well as educational materials and resources, and areas of further research were noted.