Our country faces a produce consumption crisis. Only 1 in 10 Americans report eating the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables, and the problem is worse among low-income households and participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We know why this is a serious problem - consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables in accordance with the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate nutrition advice is linked to a healthy diet and reductions in obesity

That’s why it’s so important to make it easier for families to eat more fruits and vegetables. A survey of SNAP participants revealed that some of the reported top barriers to healthier eating were the affordability of food, a lack of cooking skills and lack of time to prepare foods. It is critical to allow SNAP participants to better access solutions that help them overcome these challenges. Frozen food is part of that solution thanks to its longer shelf life, dollar savings and ease of preparation. 

However, there is still an opportunity to enhance SNAP and address these barriers in a commonsense way. SNAP and related USDA nutrition programs, including the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program(GusNIP), which seek to close the produce intake gap among lower income households, currently overwhelmingly promote fresh produce over frozen. Additionally, USDA’s Produce Prescription Program only funds projects that support the consumption of fresh produce. 

H.R. 3127, the Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce (SHOPP) Act, introduced by Reps. Mark Alford (R-MO-04) and Jasmine Crockett (D-TX-30), is a sound solution that will help make sure SNAP optimizes its impact on nutrition insecurity for Americans, no matter where they live. The SHOPP Act remedies the singular focus on fresh produce in USDA’s produce promotion programs and incentives and helps broadens the ability for individuals and families with limited grocery retail options to easily enjoy more types of healthy fruits and vegetables.  

The fresh-only approach by USDA fails to reflect the important role frozen food plays in addressing food and nutrition security.  Frozen produce has many advantages, especially for families on a strict grocery budget or with limited time. Frozen is as nutritious – and sometimes more nutritious – as fresh because nutrients are locked in immediately following harvest. Frozen food is affordable, can be consumed over time and reduces food waste by 47% when compared to fresh. Importantly, it is available in every community in every season.

Of note, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s best nutrition advice, states that “all forms of foods, including fresh, canned, dried, frozen and 100% juices in nutrient dense forms, can be included in healthy dietary patterns.”

The SHOPP Act is a bipartisan, commonsense fix to this oversight that limits produce options. It modernizes and optimizes USDA’s healthy food promotion approach by requiring the agency to consider programs that promote frozen produce equally with their fresh counterparts – a step the agency isn’t doing now.  

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In contrast to the many complicated issues facing policymakers today, getting nutrition promotion right is easy by comparison.  By way of a basic legislative language change, Congress can require the Secretary of Agriculture to consider GusNIP applications/projects that promote or incentivize frozen fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients. It also requires USDA to allow frozen fruits, vegetables and legumes to be included in the Prescription Produce Program, which currently only allows fresh fruits and vegetables. 

The SHOPP Act will increase produce consumption for all Americans by expanding the options available to shoppers with the inclusion of frozen produce. Millions of Americans are waiting for Congress and USDA to get this right. The SHOPP Act is a simple fix to a nagging problem that will easily expand access to healthy food choices for working families across the U.S. We thank Reps. Alford and Crockett for their leadership in introducing this legislation and urge Congress to act quickly to pass the SHOPP Act. 

Alison Bodor is President and CEO of the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), the national trade association that represents the $72 billion frozen food and beverage industry. She holds an MBA from the University of Maryland and a bachelor’s degree in Food Science from Cornell University.