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Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health
Press Releases

Produce For Better Health Foundation Reinforces Important Role Fruits And Vegetables Have On Health For Americans

PBH Provided Written and Oral Comments to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Scientific Report

August 21, 2020 – The Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) continues to proactively engage in advancing the role that all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice – play in improving the health of all Americans. To this end, Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, President & CEO, PBH, recently participated in the process to inform the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). On behalf of PBH, Wendy provided both oral and written comments to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), in response to the recently released Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) scientific report.

“We believe that America is experiencing a chronic fruit and vegetable consumption crisis that is affecting our culture, our society and economy,” said Reinhardt Kapsak in her comments. “The effects of this chronic consumption crisis have been further illuminated with the onset of COVID-19 and will continue to drive health disparities among many in our population if we do not transform our approach. Improving fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors should be a national priority and central to every health, food and nutrition initiative, including those funded by government.”

Updated every five years, the DGA provide advice on what to eat and drink to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease for all Americans from birth through senior years. The DGAC was comprised of 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts, who reviewed the latest evidence on foods and nutrients that support healthy dietary patterns, including the PBH-commissioned comprehensive review of the literature on the important role of fruits and vegetables to promote health and help reduce chronic disease risk recently published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The review findings were reinforced in the subsequent DGAC scientific report, which informs the development of the DGA, led by USDA and HHS.

Specifically, PBH focused on three recommendations for the USDA and HHS to consider as the DGA are developed, to positively affect fruit and vegetable consumption:

  1. The DGA should elevate and emphasize the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption by stressing that all forms of fruits and vegetables count toward achieving daily goals; highlighting the importance of introducing fruits and vegetables early and often to develop lasting consumption habits; and demonstrating and acknowledging, in educational messages, that eating more fruits and vegetables is the single most important action Americans can take to improve health.
  2. The DGA should advocate for and adopt realistic programs and initiatives to improve diet quality as well as increase fruit and vegetable intake and access by meeting consumers where they are and focusing on the ‘why and how’ of fruits and vegetables; showcasing how fruits and vegetables can be easily added to popular dishes and/or commonly-consumed foods/food groups; and using social-ecological models to identify places in which fruit and vegetable opportunities exist, including throughout government programs, research, education, etc.
  3. Future DGA should better highlight the nutrition and well-being benefits of fruits and vegetables as well as identify effective behavior change approaches to increase fruit and vegetable intakes. For example, science identifying bioactive components in fruits and vegetables as well as behavioral science on food selection, purchasing decisions and habit formation should be examined and included. In addition, the USDA Agricultural Research Service research on ‘carrier foods’ and best practices to create new fruit and vegetable habits to increase intakes should also be considered.

While the 2020 DGAC scientific report articulates the science behind the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, PBH’s research has shown that these facts, or what people know, is simply not enough to motivate behavior change. The real opportunity is when we lean into Americans’ emotional barriers and desires around fruits and vegetables – to go beyond what they simply KNOW and tap into how they FEEL and motivate them to DO something. This approach is known as PBH’s KNOW-FEEL-DO Behavioral Framework, which also serves as the foundation for their consumer-facing Have A Plant® Movement and corresponding digital ecosystem.

“Our recommendations align with a new and different approach to dietary guidance that better addresses how Americans feel about healthy eating and, most importantly, what they can do,” stated Reinhardt Kapsak. “It’s key that government and industry work together to translate science into guidance that taps into Americans’ feelings about food and that demonstrates how the doing can be easy and fun. Now is the time to bring PBH’s KNOW-FEEL-DO Behavioral Framework to life as subsequent, consumer-facing dietary guidance is created.”

The DGA are used to: form the basis of federal nutrition policy and programs (including school meals, WIC and SNAP); support nutrition education efforts; guide local, state, and national health promotion and disease prevention initiatives; and inform nutrition recommendations for various organizations and industries. The 2020-2025 DGA are expected to be released to the public later this year or in early 2021.