Wawona Frozen Foods President and CEO, Bill Smittcamp testified at the U.S. House of Representatives to urge Congress to ensure frozen foods are included and promoted in nutrition programs in the crafting of the 2023 farm bill on Tuesday, June 14.
Wawona Frozen Foods specializes in growing and freezing fresh fruits and supplies retail, club store, food service, school and food ingredients from its three processing plants in Clovis, Fresno and Watsonville, according to its company history.
“ I am passionate about feeding communities, not just in my hometown but among populations around the country. Family business, and community are a way of life for me and my family…not to mention peaches,” Smittcamp said.
Smittcamp, who represented the American Frozen Food Institute during the House Agriculture Committee hearing on Tuesday, June 14, said that while the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrition programs have been successful in bringing fresh foods to recipients, there is an opportunity to include and promote frozen foods to enhance the programs being provided before the 2023 farm bill is finalized.
The farm bill is a multi year legislative package that provides a variety of programs and assistance to the agricultural industry such as crop insurance. The most recent version of the bill was signed in 2018 and expires in 2023.
Smittcamp said that when we think about strengthening programs, like Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive (GusNip), which supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) , in the 2023 farm bill there are three main components that should be focused on.
The three main components Smittcamp said he encourages the committee to consider are, 1) Americans fall short of meeting recommended intake levels of produce and federal feeding programs should promote greater consumption, 2) if included in the future bill, frozen foods promote a sustainable food system that minimizes waste and 3) frozen foods provide supply chain stability because of their ability to use “nature’s pause button” to prevent the loss of fresh and nutritional benefits.
“We [the American Frozen Food Institute] believe households are best served when they have access to all forms of nutritious foods, just as my family does,” Smittcamp said.
In his testimony, Smittcamp said that oftentimes the decision made by different outlets to accept frozen foods at places like schools, food banks and pantries stems from infrastructure challenges such as lack of freezer capacity at schools.
“How can we work together to solve these infrastructure challengers and ensure that consumers can access multiple forms of produce for their nutrition needs at any time? The real point that I am trying to make here, is that our peach season in the U.S. is four months long. With frozen peaches in particular, the recipients and school kids can have a delicious, healthy fresh-frozen peach during any season.” Smittcamp said.
Smittcamp cited information from a report published in August of 2012 by Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) that families threw out “up to $2,275 worth of food each year” and advocated that frozen foods are often “lower in cost-per saving and have a longer shelf-life than refrigerated or fresh foods” households can avoid future financial waste by utilizing frozen products.
“This translates to consumers saving money and benefits to the environment by reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in landfills from food waste. This reduced waste can also help lessen the environmental impact across the entire food production chain, including at the distribution and retail level.” Smittcamp said.
Smittcamp urged that frozen foods be allowed and encouraged as a solution to increase nutrition access and end hunger as the committee crafts the 2023 farm bill.
In any program that is specifically geared to increase produce consumption, Smittcamp said the American Frozen Food Institute would like to see families have the option and incentive to purchase all forms of nutritious foods: fresh, frozen, dried, and canned.
“In the U.S. in 2022, I am saddened we are still talking about how to help hungry people, yet we are. But the frozen industry stands ready to offer innovative solutions and work with you to make sure that all Americans have access to the bounty of products, the fruits of our labor, if you will, we food producers can offer. I thank you and ‘Think Peaches’.” Smittcamp said.