USDA backs healthy incentives

Oct. 6, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate, and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

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USDA invests nearly $118 million to support America’s specialty crop producers

Oct. 2, 2014, U.S. Department of Agriculture

On Oct. 2 Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Secretary made the announcement in Florida.

“Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is another example of how [the U.S. Department of Agriculture] (USDA) is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process, and market high-quality products.”

Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops. Continue reading

To encourage kids to eat more vegetables, don’t focus on the health benefits

July 22, 2014, Science World Report

By Kathleen Lees

A healthy diet remains an essential part of a child’s development. However, many children might not be so eager to pick up a piece of broccoli. Of course, they’d much rather have some candy or cake. But is it all just about the taste?

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that children might be more likely to eat their fruits and vegetables if they didn’t know about the added health benefits.

“We predicted that when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it,” said researchers Michal Maimaran of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a news release. Continue reading

Supermarket access is key ingredient in obesity programs

May 3, 2014, Medical Xpress

Living close to a supermarket appears to be a key factor in the success of interventions to help obese children eat better and improve their weight, according to a study presented May 3 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Urban neighborhoods and rural towns without access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food are known as food deserts. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, food deserts sometimes have only fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Few studies have looked at whether living farther from a large supermarket affects the success of interventions to improve eating habits and reduce weight. Continue reading

How grocery store coupons can encourage healthful eating

April 10, 2014, The Washington Post

By Lenny Bernstein

Grocery coupons aren’t associated with nutritious food. Big chains use them to lure you into the store, offering discounts mostly on processed food and snacks. When researchers looked at 1,056 coupons available online for supermarkets nationwide, they found that the largest share (25 percent) were for “processed snack foods, candies, and desserts.” Another 14 percent offered price breaks on prepared meals, 11 percent were for cereals, and 12 percent were for beverages, more than half of which were sodas, juices, and energy or sports drinks.

Just 3 percent offered discounts on vegetables, 1 percent were for unprocessed meats, and fewer than 1 percent provided breaks on fruit prices. And those fruits were canned, not fresh.

If stores make “the unhealthier option less expensive and easier to purchase, we can’t be surprised when [people] purchase it,” said Andrea Lopez, a research analyst at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, who helped conduct the study. It was published in March in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease. Continue reading

Pay kids to eat fruits and veggies with school lunch

Dec. 16, 2013, Brigham Young University

The good news: Research suggests that a new federal rule has prompted the nation’s schools to serve an extra $5.4 million worth of fruits and vegetables each day.

The bad news: The nation’s children throw about $3.8 million of that in the garbage each day.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and Cornell University observed three schools adjust to new school lunch standards that require a serving of fruits or vegetables on every student’s tray – whether the child intends to eat it or not. As they report in the December issue of Public Health Nutrition, students discarded 70 percent of the extra fruits and vegetables.

“We saw a minor increase in kids eating the items, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal that are much, much cheaper,” said BYU economics professor Joe Price.

Strange as it sounds, directly paying students to eat a fruit or vegetable is less expensive and gets better results. Continue reading

Big Bird, Elmo to encourage kids to eat produce

Nov. 27, 2013, DCA Press

A trip down the grocery store produce aisle could soon feel like a stroll down “Sesame Street.”

Michelle Obama announced that the nonprofit organization behind the popular children’s educational TV program will let the produce industry use Elmo, Big Bird, and Sesame Street’s other furry characters free of charge to market fruits and veggies to kids.

The goal is to get children who often turn up their noses at the sight of produce to eat more of it.

Under the arrangement, Sesame Workshop is waiving the licensing fee for its Muppet characters for two years.

As soon as next spring, shoppers and children accompanying them can expect to see their favorite Sesame Street characters on stand-alone signs and on stickers and labels on all types of produce regardless of whether it comes in a bag, a carton, or just its skin. Continue reading

Latino families in study eat more fruits and veggies, drink less soda

Aug. 12, 2013, Medical Xpress

A successful program that increased the number of fruits and vegetables eaten and decreased sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by 50 percent among Latino children had two secret weapons, according to a University of Illinois (U of I) researcher.

“First, we got mothers and other relatives involved because family togetherness is a very important value for Latinos. Many programs, delivered at school, target only the child, but we know that kids have very little ability to choose the foods they eat at home—they don’t purchase or prepare them,” said Angela Wiley, a U of I professor of applied family studies.

The second guiding principle was “mas y menos,” meaning “a little more, a little less.”

“Interventions often fail because their goals are too lofty. If someone tells me that ice cream is the root of my problem and I can’t eat any more of it, I’ll be disheartened and say I can’t do this. If someone says, would you be willing to eat ice cream two days a week instead of five, or eat light ice cream instead, I would be more willing to try,” she said. Continue reading

‘Prescription’ for fruits, vegetables city’s next remedy in battle against obesity

July 23, 2012, New York Daily News

By Casey Tolan and Larry Mcshane

Take two tomatoes and call me in the morning.

City officials unveiled a new get-healthy program July 23 where doctors will “prescribe” a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables to patients battling obesity.

“This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for,” said New York Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. Continue reading