The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on Sept. 27 with Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive office of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, Hockessin, Del. You can read the entire chat online at www.thepacker.com/freshtalk.


9:30 a.m. Tom Karst: PBH recently released the research commissioned from the NPD Group on fruit and vegetable consumption across all age groups. Why is the NPD Group’s research on fruit and vegetable consumption significant?


9:31 a.m. Elizabeth Pivonka: What we are seeing is that there are increases and decreases within certain segments of adults, but overall as adults, (consumption) is relatively flat. What we did see in the NPD data set is that children, the youngest ones, are up a little bit over the past few years. So that’s actually nice to see. We are actually seeing shifts within different age categories. For example, one set that we haven’t released yet, shows those 65 and older are eating less than they were eating five years ago. That was a surprise to us, because usually people eat more fruits and vegetables as they get older. For the youngest children, parents seem to be paying a little more attention to what they are feeding their children; because of this whole childhood obesity has been in news about three years now. So perhaps parents are heeding that advice.


9:33 a.m. Karst: What specific ages are we talking about that have a growth in consumption?


9:33 a.m. Pivonka: Those ages 6 and under are doing the best. In terms of fruit, we’re seeing an 11% increase over the past five years and a 3% increase in vegetable consumption. For that age group, combined fruit and vegetable consumption has been growing 7%. Six to 12 year olds were up 5% for fruits and vegetables overall.


9:37 a.m. Karst: A source in a New York Times article about the difficulty of moving the needle on vegetable consumption was quoted saying something like, “There is nothing you can say to get people to eat more vegetables.” What is your response to a quote like that?


9:38 a.m. Pivonka: Parents, I think, overall, find it a little bit harder to get vegetables into their family’s diet, but there are so many different vegetables and so many ways to prepare them, people just need to try different varieties and see what they like and fix them different ways and see (if their family) likes them various ways.


9:42 a.m. Karst: As you look at what PBH is doing in the next six months, what do you think will be some highlights?


9:43 a.m. Pivonka: We have an analysis of whether or not the government puts their money where their mouth is. They are saying, “This is what you should be eating,” but where do they put their money? We did this analysis back in 2002 and wanted to update it so that will be released probably in November. That report looks very interesting. The National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance is working on a report card of all the strategies we had outlined in 2005 that were important to be able to change fruit and vegetable consumption in the nation. So we are issuing that report card, most likely in November as well.