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    GAO Report Urges Greater Federal Support and Promotion of Fruits and Veggies

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) on Thursday announced findings of a General Accounting Office (GAO) report they requested that reveals major inconsistencies between federal nutrition education/intervention efforts and national government goals and guidelines on the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) on Thursday announced findings of a General Accounting Office (GAO) report they requested that reveals major inconsistencies between federal nutrition education/intervention efforts and national government goals and guidelines on the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

    The report, "Fruits and Vegetables: Enhanced Federal Efforts to Increase Consumption Could Yield Health Benefits for Americans," calls on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase funding to build on proven successful fruit and vegetable consumption efforts, such as the 5 A Day for Better Health program. Reps. Farr and Emerson were joined by United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association President Tom Stenzel and Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) President Elizabeth Pivonka in calling on Congress and the Administration to increase support for promotion of fruits and vegetables.

    "This GAO report is the first step toward changing the mindset of the federal food programs so that fruits and vegetables play a more prominent role," said Rep. Farr. "We need to stop talking, and come up with the federal dollars to change America's unhealthy eating habits."

    United's Stenzel noted that although fruits and vegetables comprise 33 percent of the recommended food servings in the Food Guide Pyramid, they account for less than 5 percent of USDA spending.

    The GAO findings open the door for greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables in existing federal programs throughout many government agencies, especially USDA nutrition assistance programs like school lunch and breakfast, which reach one in six Americans.

    "We see this GAO report as a key factor in placing greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables at the federal level, most immediately with the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization," said Pivonka.

    The report also highlights the importance of evaluating programs and conducting behavioral research to maximize the impact of nutrition education. It recommends that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services include in their Departments' strategic and performance plans "strategies and targets supporting the Healthy People 2010 objectives for fruit and vegetable consumption" and "specific strategies and targets for implementing the 5 A Day commitments made in the April 2002 Memorandum of Understanding."

    The GAO report also suggests that the Food Guide Pyramid graphic does not communicate the need to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, particularly deeply colored ones that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies as important for disease prevention and health promotion.

    "The expanded National 5 A Day Partnership and the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and HHS to work together on behalf of 5 A Day are critical steps to giving fruits and vegetables the level of significance needed to make a difference in the health of Americans," said Rep. Emerson.

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