Government Pushing Americans to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

September 30, 2009 - 8:11 AM
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on Tuesday saying that none of the states is meeting "national objectives" for consumption of fruits and vegetables.
(CNSNews.com) – Once upon a time, mother told you to eat your vegetables.  Now the government is telling you the same thing -- and backing up its words with money to boost fruit and vegetable consumption.
 
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on Tuesday saying that none of the states is meeting “national objectives” for consumption of fruits and vegetables.
 
The “State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009” is the first to provide state-by-state data on fruit and vegetable consumption and policies that encourage Americans to eat more of what’s good for them.
 
“A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal child growth, maintaining a healthy weight, and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, all of which currently contribute to health care costs in the United States,” said Dr. William H. Dietz, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. 
 
“This report will help states determine what is taking place in their communities and schools and come up with ways to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
 
According to the goals laid out in its Healthy People 2010 report, the government wants at least 75 percent of Americans to eat the recommended two or more daily servings of fruit, and it is aiming for at least 50 percent of Americans to eat the recommended three or more servings of vegetables daily.
 
However, CDC surveys indicate that only 33 percent of adults meet the recommendation for fruit consumption and 27 percent get the recommended servings of vegetables.  The statistics are even worse for high school students, the CDC report says.
 
The report mentions three strategies that states can follow to boost consumption of healthier food:
 
First, it says supermarkets and grocery stores that stock a variety of high-quality fruits and vegetables “are a critical asset for the health of residents,” but the report notes that only eight states are working to increase the number of full-service grocery stores in areas where they are unavailable.
 
Second, the report endorses the availability of healthier foods in schools, saying, “Schools are in a unique position to influence and promote fruit and vegetable intake among youth, school staff, parents, and other community members.” The report praises “farm-to-school programs” that increase access to fruits and vegetables as well as teach school children about nutrition and agriculture.
 
And finally, the CDC report mentions a “systems approach to food.” Such an approach includes “food policy councils,” which are made up of “many agencies and community organizations that look at access of fresh produce at the community and state levels. “
 
According to CDC, food policy councils “make recommendations about policies and programs such as farm-to-school programs, community gardens, farmers markets and availability of fresh produce in supermarkets. (The report notes that 20 states have state-level food policy councils, while there are 59 local food policy councils currently in existence.)
 
“We have seen the tremendous benefit of state and local officials, health professionals, employers, food store owners, farmers, school staff, and community members working together on food and nutrition issues,” said Heidi Michels Blanck, Ph.D., CDC epidemiologist. “Their efforts can help to increase the availability of affordable healthier food choices such as fruits and vegetables.”
 
The Obama administration is pressing Americans to boost their fruit and vegetable consumption amid an intensive lobbying campaign in support of legislation to bring health-care costs down.
 
None of the Democrats’ health care reform bills tie health care premiums to factors within an individual’s control, such as weight and body mass index. However, Republicans say insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention.
 
“I operated on too many people who could have avoided surgery if they’d simply made healthier choices earlier in life,” Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) said in the Republican response to President Obama’s Sept. 9 health care address to a joint session of Congress.
 
Federal funds for ‘prevention and wellness’
 
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it is releasing millions of dollars in stimulus funds for “prevention and wellness programs.”
 
“Today’s announcement is an important step toward a healthier America,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a news release. “We know that many chronic diseases are preventable, and the resources now available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will assist states and territories in the implementation of proven prevention and wellness programs that will save lives and lower health care costs for all Americans.”
 
The $120 million will be awarded to states and territories to help them achieve “statewide policy and environmental change, tobacco cessation through quitlines and media campaigns, and special initiatives to create health-promoting policies and environments.”
 
“Chronic diseases are the leading cause of premature death in the country, account for spiraling health care costs, and cause disability and suffering for millions of Americans,” said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 
 
“The good news is that we can greatly reduce the toll of chronic disease by reducing just four risk factors -- tobacco use, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and obesity.  With these new funds, states and territories will work to improve the environments where their residents live, work, learn, and play so that healthy choices become the easy choice.”