Editorial: Food for thought | Editorials

When it comes to healthy eating, Vermont is clearly a leader in the country.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week suggests that adults in Vermont are doing a decent job of eating their daily requirement of fruits and vegetables.

From a sample of nearly 5,000 respondents, 15.3% of participants in Vermont said they had eaten enough fruit; 16.1% said they ate enough vegetables.

Vermontese residents tend to be healthier. Part of that is likely to be surrounded by a working landscape, lots of local farms and service providers. Likewise, we also have an above-average number of citizens who exercise and use the many benefits of the state to our advantage.

It pays off. Last year, for the fourth year in a row, Vermont was named the healthiest state in the country by the United Health Corporation. The state has risen steadily over the past 20 years of the group’s U.S. health rankings, moving from number 20 in 1990 to number one.

However, what the CDC has found is that the percentage of adults in the United States who adhere to its fruit and vegetable intake recommendations is low.

And while Vermont has done better than most, we could use a little help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationwide in 2019, 12.3% and 10% of 294,566 adults surveyed met recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake, respectively. Satisfying fruit intake recommendations was highest among Hispanic adults (16.4%) and lowest among males (10.1%). Satisfying vegetable intake recommendations was highest among adults over 51 (12.5%) and lowest among lower-income adults (6.8%).

According to the report, “countries can use this information to adapt efforts to high-risk populations (such as men, youth, and low-income adults) and implement improved interventions, policies, and programs that help people increase fruit and vegetable consumption to support immune function and prevent chronic disease.”

The 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend incorporating more fruits and vegetables into the diets of US residents as part of healthy dietary patterns. Adults should consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily.

According to the report, a healthy diet: supports healthy immune function; Helps prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer; Having some of these conditions can result in people being exposed to more severe illness and death from COVID-19.

The CDC used the most recent 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data to estimate the percentage of the state’s adult population who met intake recommendations.

Overall, 12.3% of adults met recommendations for fruit, ranging from 8.4% in West Virginia to 16.1% in Connecticut, and 10% met recommendations for vegetables, ranging from 5.6% in Kentucky to 16% in Vermont.

In 2019, the average reported frequency of eating the fruit was once per day. The average reported vegetable intake was 1.6 times per day, ranging from 1.5 times per day in Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and New Mexico to 1.9 times per day in Maine and Vermont.

Even the CDC is shaking its fingers.

And while there can be legitimate reasons not to eat more (and better), the report said, we need to eat more and better as a nation.

“For some people, these barriers may have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with disruptions to the economy and supply chain potentially limiting access to healthy foods,” the report says.

The report recommends that states and communities take bolder action in supporting food policy boards (community coalitions that often support a particular community such as families with incomes below the federal poverty level or people from racial and ethnic minority groups) to build a more sustainable food system; Support community retail programs to attract grocery stores and supermarkets to underserved communities to improve community food quality; Increase access to healthy food, and enhance participation in federal food assistance programs.

Vermont has a solid system, but it could be improved.

We can take advantage of a lot of local produce available in farmers’ markets and stalls. There is of course the added benefit of supporting friends, neighbors, and your community by shopping at these local resources. For some with the time, the inclination and the land, there is also the option of taking refuge in our own gardens or fruit trees and berry bushes during those warmer months, many of us are probably already craving right now.

Food for thought. Now, go and eat an apple or a carrot.

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