Low Federal Funding Priority for Fruits and Vegetables Conflicts with Public Health Concerns

Another example of “do as we say, not as we do…” Last week we learned that the USDA is spending huge amounts of money encouraging us to eat low-fat foods, including less milk and cheese while, at the same time, funding marketing programs that are helping restaurant chains find new ways to add more cheese to their offerings. Read more here: USDA: Don’t Eat Cheese, Wait – Eat Cheese

The average American consumes only 51% of the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, even though the USDA has poured funds into nutrition programs and dietary guidelines. At the same time, three diet-related chronic diseases – coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer – grew by 92% from 1999 through 2008. Government policies have made consumption of fruits and vegetables a public health priority and has given low funding priority to production and delivery of produce.

Read what the Produce for Better Health Foundation has to say in two new reports.

(Please note that the Produce for Better Health Foundation is funded by major food and agribusiness companies.
See a selected list of donors below.)

In a press announcement this week, the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) released complementary reports on America’s fruit and vegetable consumption along with recommendations to alleviate the enormous economic and disease-related costs associated with the lack of fruit and vegetable consumption.

The 2010 GAP Analysis outlines the extent to which the federal government policies have made fruits and vegetables a national public health priority. According to the analysis, however, the government’s relegation of fruits and vegetables to a low funding priority status is inconsistent with this public health priority, the large produce consumption gap, and the economic costs and substantial health risks associated with that gap.

In fact, the average American consumes only 43% of the daily intake of fruit and only 57% of vegetables, as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines. Further, the public health and economic stakes associated with the fruit and vegetable consumption gap are very high and growing rapidly. For example, the health care and other costs of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption for just three diet-related, chronic diseases—coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer—cost $56 billion a year, having grown 9% per year over the past 10 years. The analysis issued a series of forward-looking recommendations designed to close this pervasive gap:

  • Align USDA spending with dietary recommendations
  • Elevate nutrition education as a USDA funding priority
  • Allocate NIH funding based on the disease-prevention benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Bring CDC fruit and vegetable spending in line with chronic disease health risks

On the consumer level, the State of the Plate report examines America’s produce consumption. Among its findings, several groups have increased their fruit consumption by at least 5% since 2004. These include children ages 2-12, males 18-34, and females 18-54. Teens and those 65 and older, however, appear to be eating less fruits and vegetables. While trends in population segments show signs of improvement, overall under-consumption continues to be a problem.

Taken together, these reports show that America faces a fruit and vegetable consumption crisis. The federal spending gap parallels the individual consumption gap. In order to address this public health challenge, efforts must focus on aligning spending priorities with the importance of fruits and vegetables to health, with a focus on fruit and vegetable availability and targeted messaging to increase widespread consumption.

The 2010 GAP Analysis can be found online here. The State of the Plate report can be found online here.

Editor’s Note – The Produce for Better Health Foundation is funded by major food and agribusiness companies like:

  • Bayer CropScience
  • Campbell Soup Company
  • Canned Food Alliance
  • Chiquita Brands International/Fresh Express
  • ConAgra Lamb Weston
  • Del Monte Foods
  • Dole Food Company, Inc.
  • Fresh Produce & Floral Council
  • Green Giant – Frozen and Canned Foods
  • McDonald’s Corporation
  • Monsanto Vegetable Seeds
  • Nestle USA
  • Produce Marketing Association
  • Sunkist Growers, Inc.
  • Syngenta Corporation
  • U.S. Potato Board
  • United Fresh Produce

For the entire donors list click here.

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