The economy has taken a toll on the best intentions of moms to feed their children more fruits and vegetables, research from the Produce for Better Health Foundation reveals.

“The economy has impacted how people think of fruits and vegetables,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Wilmington, Del.

The report, a compilation of research from 2006 through 2009 on Gen X moms, showed positive movement between 2007 and 2008 in measuring the intentions of moms to feed their children fruits and vegetables.

PBH survey: Recession slowing produce purchases

Those intentions took a hit in the 2009 survey, Pivonka said.

“We believe and the research firm we are working with it is largely due to the economy,” Pivonka said.

For 2009, 69% of moms surveyed said they intended to purchase more fruits and vegetable for their families in the next three months. That percentage was down from 76% last year.

Likewise, 79% of moms in 2009 said they wanted to include a greater diversity of fruits and vegetables for their meals, down from 85% in 2008.

“They are worried about keeping their job and having enough money to feed their family, let alone feed them healthy foods,” Pivonka said in early November.

The 36-page report said that more than 50% of consumers report knowing that five servings of fruits and vegetables is recommended, but their behavior is not consistent with meeting those expectations.

In fact, this is the first year in the four-year history of the survey of Gen X moms that observed a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption.

In 2009, fruit consumption dropped 12% from 2008’s numbers and vegetable consumption was down 6%, a PBH news release said. The decline in consumption was especially noted for lower-income households.

The survey showed that self-reported daily consumption of fruits and vegetables declined from 4.8 servings to four servings for households with income lower than $50,000. For households with incomes above $150,000, self-reported consumption increased from 5.6 servings to 5.8 servings.

“The recession is having a significant negative impact on the attitude and behavior of lower-income mothers regarding fruits and vegetables,” the report said. Lower income moms self-reported a decline in fruit and vegetable consumption and the importance of a healthy diet in 2009, the survey said.

Still, most moms believe their families fall short in fruit and vegetable consumption. The survey revealed that 57% of moms in 2009 reported their families eat too few fruits, while 63% of moms said their families don’t eat enough vegetables. Those statistics are slightly higher than 2006, when 51% of mom felt their families didn’t eat enough fruit and 59% believed their families fell short in vegetable consumption.