For almost a quarter of a century fresh produce advocates, foundations for disease prevention and government health agencies in the U.S. have pushed the message that eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is optimal for maintaining and improving one’s health. But a new survey released at the very end of 2014 shows that only about 15% of Americans eat at least five fruits and veggies a day. The poll was sponsored by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and compared Hispanic health issues with those of Whites and “Non-Hispanic Blacks.” One of the health questions was, “On average, how many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day?”
The sampling was pretty evenly split between the three ethnic groups, but showed that Hispanics were the least likely to attain the five-a-day goal (only 7%). Whites were the most successful at meeting the number but even among them only 18% said they did. After 20-plus years of promoting the idea, have the experts conceded the goal is unrealistic?
In 1991 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) organized a national campaign in the United States to promote the Five-a-Day slogan. It gained a lot of exposure and press, and became a message with “household recognition.” If you were a fan of the very popular 1990s sitcom Seinfeld you may have noticed in several episodes the Five-a-Day logo posted on a window of the produce market where Jerry Seinfeld and his friends shopped for their veggies. How effective that very subliminal exposure was for the campaign can certainly be debated, but the fact that the PBH got the creators of the show to place it on screen was a big coup and showed how widespread the message became.
In the early 2000s, The World Health Organization (WHO) got on board and has since prompted several other major countries to adopt the Five-a-Day message. They continue to expand it around the world.
But In 2007 PBH re-launched its effort to promote more consumption of produce by rebranding the Five-a-Day campaign to “Fruits and Veggies—More Matters.” From then on the message has been “Half your plate” instead of “Five a Day.” Maybe half a plate is more attainable and easier for people to assess than five a day? If so, perhaps the next poll conducted will make that the question, and we will see the results.
We applaud the valiant efforts of PBH and the team at Fruits and Veggies More Matters. It’s important work and we are confident it has made a difference in the lives of many. Stay tuned to the Produce Buzz blog for more on this topic. We will be speaking with the experts to highlight their efforts to get more people eating more fresh produce.