How the industry can better serve schools' produce needs

Serving schools better was a huge topic at this year’s United Fresh Convention, and Alex Dinovo is back again to share his thoughts on how we can do better as an industry.

You can read his original article here from The Packer or keep reading below

From The Packer on April 25, 2019:

Feeding children produce in schools is important to me because I care about education, progress, the future of humanity — and I make a living off of selling healthy produce. 

Fortunately, the amount of produce consumed in schools has greatly improved over the past couple of decades. 

To give a sense of scale, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 30 million school lunches are served each day that have at least half a cup of fruits and vegetables — that’s a lot of produce! This is good, but as an industry we can do more to increase produce consumption in schools. 

Selling produce to schools is really like selling to three separate markets at the same time. Each child that eats produce in a school is not only generating current revenue, but may also influence his or her inner circle’s (parents/siblings) spending decisions outside of school, increasing supplementary sales.

No matter what your business does in this industry, there is no doubt that increasing the amount of quality produce going into schools will have a positive effect. 

In addition, the more positive experiences with produce that children have in their formative years, the more likely it is that they will be lifelong consumers, generating repeated future sales. 

In order to increase the per capita consumption of produce, as an industry we need to do a better job of influencing eating behavior at an early age. This obviously means offering high quality, flavorful and appealing fruits and vegetables to children in both bulk and kid-friendly fresh-cut forms. 

It also means that we should try to work with schools and school officials to educate children whenever and wherever possible about the healthful benefits of fruits and vegetables in conjunction with facts about their science and origin. The lunchroom IS the classroom, and if possible (especially with younger children), we should always try to find ways to blend the consumption with an experience. 

As parents, grandparents, coaches, mentors, etc., I believe that we could all do more to influence younger generations to eat more produce both inside and outside of school.

Lastly, as members of the produce industry, we need to advocate and fight for legislation that protects the health of our population and increases the amount of fresh produce that is served in schools. 

No matter what your business does in this industry, there is no doubt that increasing the amount of quality produce going into schools will have a positive effect. 

There is a war going on, the battlefield is the lunch room, and the share of the plate is the conquest. Our opponents — pizza pushers, canned good connoisseurs and fry fanatics — may have more money, power, and lobbying influence, but in fact we still have the upper hand. We are advocating for progress — a healthier future with less disease and a longer life.

Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. He also is a member of the United Fresh Start Foundation Board of Trustees. E-mail him at

Rachel Weiler