GUEST POST: An Investment in Better Nutrition Benefits All Americans
The following guest post was written by Janet Skibicki, social media coordinator of Produce for Better Health Foundation and author of the Fruits & Veggies—More Matters weekly blog, “Stem & Stalk …Let’s Talk.” September is recognized as National Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Month.
It’s no secret Americans have an obesity problem, considered to be at epidemic proportions. In fact, according to CDC, more than nine million young people are overweight or obese. This problem has dire consequences. Obesity brings with it a host of chronic health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Reducing obesity is not rocket science: eating more fruits and vegetables and less of virtually everything else, plus being physically active, is key. The harder part is motivating people and making it easy for them to make healthy food and physical activity part of their daily lives.
At the Produce for Better Health Foundation, our mission is to lead people to eat more fruits and vegetables because it matters for their better health. We work closely with public health partners such as CDC and USDA. We also work with supermarkets, restaurants, fruit and vegetable growers (including those who preserve fruits and vegetables through freezing, drying, or canning), as well as educators and health professionals to promote fruits and vegetables and educate consumers through our Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® program. Our priority is to change behaviors, especially via outreach to Moms, and through working with partners to implement strategies outlined in our National Action Plan to Promote Health Through Increased Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, developed in 2005.
We’re making progress, but we can’t do this alone. Our 2010 gap analysis, titled The Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Challenge: How Federal Spending Falls Short of Addressing Public Health Needs, shows that fruits and vegetables have remained a low priority for federal funding despite the enormous economic costs and substantial health risks associated with their low consumption. In fact, health care and other costs of inadequate fruit and vegetable consumption for just coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer grew by 91% in less than 10 years and currently stands at $56 billion annually. If we are going to make a difference for future generations, this must change.
We’re encouraged that in the past few years we’ve seen some programs and updated policies put in place—all of which support our mission of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. In January 2011, USDA updated its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which included recommendations to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. By June 2011, USDA developed the new MyPlate icon and replaced the pyramid symbol with a plate half-filled with fruits and vegetables. As a national strategic partner, PBH has partnered closely with USDA on promoting MyPlate to consumers through our social media efforts and our award-winning consumer website.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative directly targets childhood obesity and specifically highlights fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Since the launch of this program in 2010, we’ve been involved in supporting various accomplishments –the HealthierUS School Challenge, Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, and the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which increases access to healthy food for low-income children.
We will continue to work with our private and public sector partners to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables as a key part of a healthy lifestyle, but government and elected officials need to do their part to ensure funding and support is available as well. What steps are needed to bring about the real change in the obesity problem facing our nation?
- Realign government spending in accordance with the dietary guidelines;
- Elevate nutrition education as a funding priority;
- Allocate funding based on disease-prevention benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption; and
- Bring spending in line with chronic disease health risks.
The end result would be a win for everyone—a healthier America and long-term savings in health care costs from prevention of obesity-related chronic disease.
To learn more about Produce for Better Health Foundation, visit www.pbhfoundation.org and for more information about our Fruits & Veggies—More Matters consumer program, go to www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.