CERRITOS, Calif. — Elizabeth Pivonka couldn’t be happier about the recently announced White House initiative to encourage Americans to devote half their plates to fruits and vegetables.
The president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation told members of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council at their June 15 luncheon that the unveiling of the MyPlate icon June 2 and accompanying publicity should make important inroads to encourage U.S. consumers to eat more healthfully.
“Everybody’s talking about fruits and vegetables,” she said, thanks to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama and the new initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The MyPlate icon replaces the Food Pyramid and was designed to be an uncomplicated way to show Americans how to eat healthy.
USDA has named the Produce for Better Health Foundation as a strategic partner in the MyPlate program, and the organization will take part in a conference call this month to discuss ways to disseminate information about the new campaign, Pivonka said.
It would behoove supermarkets to support MyPlate, she said, because if the effort is successful in closing the gap between recommended and actual consumption of fruits and vegetables, supermarkets could profit by $113,000 per store per week — or nearly $6 million a year.
Americans today eat about half the fruits and vegetables they should, she said.
In other PBH news, she said the organization plans to sponsor an $8,000 to $15,000 research project to study emotional factors behind fruit and vegetable purchases.
Pivonka also shared some new medical research that revealed that, while the positive effect of fruits and vegetables on some cancers is not as great as once was thought, it is even more pronounced on heart disease, stroke and hypertension.
Just one or two servings of green vegetables per week could help delay cataract surgery in older adults by five to seven years, she said.
Pivonka also discussed some five-year trends in fruit and vegetable consumption from the PBH industry-oriented website:
- Overall fruit and vegetable consumption is flat, but there have been increases in particular segments. Children age 2 to 6 are eating 7% more fruits and vegetables, and 6- to 12-year-olds are eating 5% more;
- Consumption is down about 4% among teens and adults 65 and older;
- Only 1% of adults and 2% of children meet target consumption goals;
- Consumers eat 80% of fruits and vegetables at home, which means most produce purchases are made at supermarkets, but Pivonka said there’s still “a lot of opportunity in the restaurant world”;
Finally, she said 80% of produce is consumed fresh, while about 10% is canned and 10% is frozen.