April 26, 2022 Newark, DE and Washington, DC – Last week, the International Fresh Produce Association BB #: 378962 coordinated an X-Change school food service partner to connect producer-shippers of produce with leading menu planners K-12 schools from 18 of America’s largest school districts and early education providers.
The Partner X-Change was developed to enhance the produce industry’s understanding of this unique, high-volume foodservice customer and to create opportunities to increase access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables at school.
The virtual event connected buyers and sellers for 15-minute “speed dating” meetings. School administrators shared information about their menu planning, procurement processes and the types of fruits and vegetables they currently offer, as well as what they would be interested in serving in the months and year to come. to come.
Fruit and vegetable suppliers were informed directly by the school food service operators of their needs and had the opportunity to ask questions. They also highlighted their company’s capabilities and products, including bulk and fresh-cut produce, as well as individual kid-friendly snacks.
“K-12 schools are often the ‘biggest restaurant in town’ and can be a collaborative partner in introducing thousands of school children to a new product, as well as a variety of traditional product choices in a consistent way” said Andrew Marshall, IFPA Staff Liaison for Wholesale-Distributor Members and Lead for K-12 School Nutrition Community Engagement Opportunities.
Every day, 31 million children take part in the National School Lunch Program. Schools are required to offer a fruit and a vegetable, and students must walk out of their queue with at least one serving of produce on their plate. In addition to lunch, many schools also offer breakfast, fresh fruit and vegetable snacks in class, and an after-school supper program.
“These recent meetings have been invaluable, providing much-needed insight into how schools currently deliver meals and their needs and interests moving forward,” said Michelle Roberts, director of marketing at Taylor Farms Foodservice.
“Some schools are going back to salad bars, some are still in dire need of individually wrapped single-serving products, and some want a fresh take-out meal that includes all food components, so it’s fully refundable by USDA standards. Overall, IFPA’s partner X-Change has been helpful in understanding school administrators’ thinking, and it was great to hear their interest and commitment to making “new” options more easily accessible. to their students. »
Lisa Griffin, director of child nutrition for Union Public Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was one of this year’s school canteen partner X-Change participants.
She said: “Being part of these meetings has been incredibly helpful. We are currently working on our product offering and due to our conversations we are now planning to add new items, update our specifications for some bulk and individual pack sizes and it was also great to hear more about the resources producers and industry partners have to help customers choose fresh produce. Schools can also take advantage of these marketing materials!
Schools and product suppliers who participated in the K-12 School Foodservice Partner X-Change, included:
K-12 school foodservice partner X-Change continues the association’s engagement with elementary and secondary school menu planners, programming that was previously coordinated by the United Fresh Produce Association.
In July, the association will also host K-12 school menu planners at the IFPA Foodservice Conference, July 28-29, in Monterey, California. The association has already begun inviting school nutrition officials in California and will also coordinate a school catering forum to bring menu planners from big-city schools to the event. School buyers will be able to discover new products at the exhibition, take part in tours of nearby growing fields and connect with existing and new suppliers.
To continue supporting K-12 school food professionals, IFPA is also offering year-round resources and connections:
• Free IFPA membership to take advantage of all the connections and resources IFPA has to offer
• A portfolio of foodservice-focused resources, including fresh produce trends and research to help plan and inspire menus
• Access to member directory, as well as assistance in identifying industry contacts by region, product and industry segment
• IFPA publications, webinars, and white papers, plus access to timely updates on food security, operations, supply chain logistics, nutrition policy, and more.
• Complimentary registration to the annual IFPA Foodservice Conference, Global Produce & Floral Show and potentially other conferences and events.
For more information about the K-12 School Foodservice Partner X-Change and other programs and resources for school foodservice operators, contact Andrew Marshall, Wholesale-Distributor Relations and External Partnerships at (202) 303-3407.
“I encourage all product suppliers who work with schools or wish to sell to this important customer to become more involved in the association and to encourage your school contacts to do the same,” said Lisa McNeece, Vice President of Foodservice. and Industrial Sales, Grimmway Farms. “Supporting healthy options for our youngest consumers in school is undoubtedly an investment in a vibrant future for our children and our industry.”
About the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA)
The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) is the largest and most diverse international association serving the entire fresh and floral produce supply chain and the only one to seamlessly integrate global advocacy and industry support. We exist to bring the industry together to create a vibrant future for all. We increase the prosperity of our members by carrying out advocacy actions; connecting people and ideas; and offering advice that empowers us all to act with determination and confidence. Although IFPA builds on the legacy of the United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association, it’s not just a combination. It’s transformational. Recognizing that the industry needed an even more powerful and unified voice, the leaders of the former United Fresh and Produce Marketing Association chose not to merge, but rather to create an entirely new organization to replace their organizations, to from January 1, 2022.