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    American Produce Consumption Still Misses Target

    A national action plan promotes health via increased fruit, veggie consumption.
     

    The average American’s fruit and vegetable consumption remains far below recommended levels, despite repeated warnings from high-level federal officials about the impact of diet-related disease, according to the grades of an industry report card released by the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance (NFVA).

    Led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), NFVA developed a national action plan in 2005 to provide a new and comprehensive approach for improved public health through increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Five years later, the alliance’s report card has found a persistent, ongoing gap between actual and recommended consumption when based on evaluations of progress made by schools, restaurants, supermarkets, and federal and state governments, in its 2010 National Action Plan (NAP).

    In fact, only 6 percent of individuals achieve their recommended target for vegetables, and only 8 percent achieve their recommended target for fruit in an average day. While food consumed away from home makes up about a third of the average American's daily calories, it accounts for only 11 percent of all fruit and vegetable consumption.

    To put this in perspective, eight of the states with the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption are also in the top 10 states with the highest obesity rates.

    The report card assigned an 'A' grade to the WIC Fruit and Vegetable Vouchers program, which was introduced as part of a special supplemental program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC allowed broad inclusion of fruits and vegetables, which had been previously excluded for 30 years. School food and restaurant menus received a 'C' grade for making slight progress over the past five years, particularly with regard to greater availability and variety in fruit and vegetable choices in fast-food establishments and cafeterias. Last, a failing grade was assigned to the healthy food advertising category, due to the decrease in nutritious food advertising over time.

    "The data clearly indicates that resolving our public health crisis depends on the consistent success and efforts of the many stakeholders involved in America's food choices and eating habits," said Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of Wilmington, Del.-based PBH. "From both the private and public sectors, organizations across the spectrum have a vital role to play in making increased fruit and vegetable consumption a reality for all Americans."

    In a set of forward-looking strategies, the report issued recommendations that, when taken together, would begin to close the gap that exists between actual and recommended fruit and vegetable consumption in this country. They include:
     

    • Increasing the accessibility of fruits and vegetables in communities, schools, worksites and restaurants;
    • Strengthening nutrition education programs and promotion efforts that give consumers the skills and motivation they need to make better food choices; and
    • Aligning federal funding priorities to be consistent with federal Dietary Guidelines.

    To read the 2010 National Action Plan Report Card Executive Summary or Full Report Card, and/or to view the Grades Only, visit: www.nfva.org.
     

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