Helping school children eat healthy

Originally published in Issue 15, October 2016

Chris Higgins, general manager at Hort Americas, talks about why he and his company are involved with Tour de Fresh.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Higgins, general manager at Hort Americas, to discuss his recent philanthropic activities, most specifically regarding his important work with Tour de Fresh. Tour de Fresh, presented by The California Giant Foundation, is the first-of-its-kind, collaborative event that unites the most significant brands and influencers in the fresh produce industry for a four-day cycling event that raises funds to benefit the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign.

The goal of the 2016 Tour de Fresh and its participants is to privately finance 100+ new salad bars in school districts across the country. At a cost of $3,100 per salad bar per school, sponsors and participants alike strongly believe that providing healthy eating opportunities for school children should be a requirement. We have raised enough money to buy multiple salad bars for multiple schools.

JP: How did you become aware of and associated with Tour de Fresh?

CH:  I was introduced to the Tour de Fresh by a close friend and industry mentor, Ron Cramer. Ron saw a press release for the first event in the spring of 2014. Ron rode in the first year’s Tour de Fresh with me. He was the oldest rider on the tour. I won’t mention his age!

JP: How many rides have you been on? 

CH: This year was my third year. The first year, we rode the California coast from Monterey to Anaheim. The second year, we rode the Great Smoky Mountains from Hickory, N.C., to Atlanta, Ga. This year it was back to California, from Napa to Monterey.

JP: What’s the most rewarding part for you? 

CH: First I would say “the cause” followed by “the accomplishment.” The ride is a great opportunity for me to combine many of my passions.

1. Healthy living through a healthy diet. And salad bars are a great way to do this. Salad bars are an even better way to do this for children as it allows them to make good decisions about eating on their own terms.

2. Cycling. Part of a healthy lifestyle includes exercise. Currently, my preferred choice of staying in shape is cycling.

3. Agriculture. Farming, regardless of the technology used, is the backbone of our community and society. We are stronger because our farmers keep us well-fed. We can be stronger if we focus on improving our diets to include more of the fresh produce our farming system puts in front of us every day.

JP: What would you like those who are not aware of Tour de Fresh to know? 

CH: I want them to know that they should not take the diets of the children in their community for granted. Healthy, happy, well-fed children make for better students. These children will become the employees, the entrepreneurs, the leaders and the innovators of tomorrow as well as the parents and neighbors in their communities.

So let’s work together to make them stronger. Let’s work together to give them all an equal chance to take advantage of the education put in front of them. Let’s teach them to see healthy diets as the norm and discourage them from developing habits that will plague them tomorrow.

JP: Have you seen tangible, positive results from your efforts?

CH: I have.  For example, Mattawan Later Elementary School in Mattawan, Mich., from last year (see photos top right).

JP: When is the next Tour de Fresh ride? 

CH: The next ride is Oct. 1, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas, and I’ll be there!

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