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What are we going to do with all these surplus cranberries?

Like cranberries? There's a big surplus going on right now.

There is, in case you haven’t heard, a big cranberry surplus. We can thank our northern neighbors for that -- Canada produces hundreds of millions of them every year. 

The Congressional Cranberry Caucus -- yes, such a thing exists -- asked the Department of Agriculture to add cranberries to what’s called the “USDA Foods Available List.” These are “foods that are available for schools to purchase as part of their commodity feeding programs,” says Scott Soares, the head of the Cranberry Marketing Committee.

These are the kinds of fruits and vegetables the federal government buys for school meals programs.

“When the National School Lunch Program started in 1946, it was very explicitly half about helping children and half about commodity disposal,” says Parke Wilde, who teaches nutrition at Tufts.

These days, Wilde says, that balance has shifted; now it is more about nutrition goals. The trouble is cranberries typically require some added sugar to make them palatable. 

The Ag Department has approved dried cranberries and cranberry sauce, but that’s it. The cranberry industry needs to offload more than that.  It has 750,000 barrels to get rid of -- that’s 75 million pounds.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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