SALEM, Ore. - Oregonians must have paid attention when their mothers told them to eat their fruits and vegetables. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates Oregon is one of the states with the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The timing of the report coincides with the start of a seasonal harvest of local crops that provide good nutritional value.
"This report is really good news about the nutritional health of Oregonians," says Stephanie Page, special assistant to the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
"Oregon has the highest median intake of vegetables among all states – that means the highest number of times per day that an adult is eating vegetables. Oregon is also among the highest in fruit consumption. I'm not surprised by the good numbers. There is a lot of interest among the partners in agriculture and health advocacy to promote fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet."
The CDC report, State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables 2013, provides state-level information on fruit and vegetable consumption by adults along with environmental and policy indicators that support consumption. Overall, fruit and vegetable consumption is low throughout the US. But Oregon and its neighboring states score high in many categories.
Vegetable consumption is where Oregon beats everyone. The report indicates adults in Oregon consume vegetables 1.9 times per day – nearly two meals. Washington, Idaho, and California are not far behind along with a handful of other states.
At the other end of the national spectrum, Mississippi, Iowa, and the Dakotas consume vegetables only 1.4 times per day. The report does not quantify how many vegetables are consumed at those times nor does it identify which type of vegetable is being eaten. But it appears Oregonians are more likely than consumers in other states to select vegetables when they are hungry.
Consumption of fruits is not as frequent as that of vegetables. California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont top the list of adults consuming fruit at 1.3 times per day. Oregon stands at 1.1 times per day– the same as Washington and Idaho. Mississippi and Oklahoma adults consume fruit less than once a day, according to the report.
Another statistical category includes the percentage of adults who report consuming fruits and vegetables less than once a day. For vegetables, once again, Oregon leads the nation. Only 15.3 percent of adults consume vegetables less than once a day. For fruit consumption, Oregon's 32 percent is below the national average, which is good news.
Despite the encouraging figures, there is room for improvement.
"We can certainly drive down that percentage of adults who report consuming fruit less than one time each day," says Page. "There are many Oregon-grown products that can help reduce those percentages, and this is a good time of year to look for them."
Oregon is in the middle of the pack when it comes to acreage that produces fruits and vegetables. But many of them are in abundance throughout the harvest season at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and many grocery stores offering fresh produce. There is no doubt that at least a portion of the fruits and vegetables being consumed– and leading to Oregon's high standing among states– comes from local growers.
The CDC report also gives Oregon high marks for taking advantage of programs that give people access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Many farmers' markets offer fresh fruits and vegetables to low income, nutritionally needy families and elderly citizens as part of the Oregon Farm Direct Nutrition Program (FDNP) administered by the state.
In addition, all women and children enrolled in the Oregon WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program can receive additional vouchers on a monthly basis to purchase fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables year round from authorized farmers at farm stands and farmers' markets. It's called the Oregon WIC Fruit and Veggie Voucher program and also allows recipients to buy produce at WIC-authorized grocery stores.
Oregon ranks fifth in the nation in percentage of farmers that accept FDNP coupons. Also, there has been a 200 percent increase in the number of farmers' markets that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits since the previous report in 2009.
While much attention is paid to fresh products, especially this time of year, there is plenty of good nutritional value in frozen fruits and vegetables, and they can be enjoyed all year long.
"We have some amazing processors in Oregon that produce frozen fruits and vegetables," says Page. "Consumers can check the freezer section of their grocery store. If you don't have the fresh fruits and vegetables you are looking for, that's another place to look."
Page says even though Oregon's numbers can get better, the state is doing a great job of educating people on the value of fruits and vegetables.
"We have farm to school programs that help encourage children to consume healthy and nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables," she said. "There are many farm-direct opportunities to find fruits and vegetables.
"ODA administers specialty crop block grant funds that help promote many Oregon products, particularly fruits and vegetables. We have been involved with other partners in the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign, which has featured a variety of fruits and vegetables. We also work with the Ag in the Classroom Foundation. The Oregon program has developed something called ‘My Oregon Plate', which helps kids and their parents find out about different healthy fruits and vegetables that can be included as part of a nutritious meal."
More promotion, more education, and more access. Those three components hold the key to improving Oregon's already strong national standing when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption.
This article provided by Bruce Pokarney of the Oregon Depoartment of Agriculture.