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Nationwide Access to Quality and Affordable Fruits and Vegetables

By partnering with local vendors to buy fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious ingredients, the Vermont Works for Women FRESH Food Program has served more than 68,000 kids in early care and education centers meals that not only meet, but exceed USDA nutritional standards. This is just one example of efforts taking place across the country to increase access to fruits and vegetables.  

It’s well-known that eating fruits and vegetables promotes good health. It fuels the body with important nutrients, may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and may help maintain a healthy weight. The question is—how many people have access to quality and affordable fruits and vegetables nationwide?   A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2013, sheds light on the steps states and communities are taking to make it easier for everyone to access fruits and vegetables in their communities, schools and child care. 

Making healthy fruits and vegetables available for kids in schools and child care is important. As the new CDC report shows, 28 states now have farm to school or preschool policies that help guarantee students have healthy meals and nutrition education during the school day. The report also points out that in half of all states, more than one-third of middle and high schools that offer foods at school celebrations include fruits and vegetables.

Some of the vegetables harvested when First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chefs joined children from Bancroft and Tubman Elementary Schools to harvest vegetables during the third annual White House kitchen garden fall harvest Oct. 5, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

It’s also important that fruits and vegetables are readily available for purchase in every community.  Many public and private efforts are underway to add to the number of communities where fruits and vegetables are readily available for purchase, to improve overall access. For example, in Rhode Island the Market Mobile project is increasing access to healthy local foods by building relationships between local food producers and retailers like grocery and corner stores.  In addition, increasing the numbers of farmers markets, and putting in place policies that allow them to accept nutrition assistance program benefits, helps lower-income families have more places to buy fruits and vegetables, and to fit them in their budgets. 

Yes, there is still more to be done to increase fruit and vegetable access and consumption across the country, but state leaders, health professionals, food retailers, farmers, schools, child care centers, and community members are working together in many states to do just that. This effort is helping to increase the number of Americans living healthier lives. 

The following are examples of what you can do:

  • Support your local farmers’ market and find out if they offer healthy food incentive programs.
  • Ask your kids’ school district about putting in school salad bars or participating in farm to school programs.
  • Send cut-up fruits or vegetables to your kids’ classroom celebrations instead of sugary treats.
  • Pack fruits and vegetables for lunch for kids in schools and child care, and for yourself.

View the 2013 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables.

This post was created by the Center for Disease Control Fruits and Vegetables Team.