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Thursday March 22, 2018

"Clean Eating," pronounces New York Times best selling author, columnist, nutritional therapist and fitness model Tosca Reno, "is avoiding all processed food, relying on fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains." Likewise, attendees at this year's Nebraska State Fair were treated to cooking demonstrations, funded by USDA, to get Nebraskans interested in eating fresh vegetables to improve their health, as the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's promotions coordinator told Public Radio.

Consumers have been hearing similar praise for eating more fresh produce for years. Has the push succeeded?

USDA's annual update of its Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, which provides data, both contemporary and historic, on domestic production, trade volumes, and per capita food availability for a wide variety of specialty crops, breaks out estimates for fresh and processed vegetables, such as canned tomatoes or other fresh, canned, frozen, and some dried vegetables. The yearbook data make a useful tool to track trends and changes in these commodities over time.

Decade averages for per capita availability of fresh and processed vegetables show that fresh vegetable availability increased from around 90 pounds per person in the 1970s to a high of almost 150 pounds per person in the 2000s.

Although per capita fresh vegetable availability is down slightly in the current decade, the data are only current through 2016 and average availability is still well above the earlier decades.

Processed vegetable per capita availability tells a slightly different story, remaining relatively flat between 110 and 130 pounds per capita. Since the peak in the 1990s, processed vegetable availability has trended downwards.

USDA reports that for fresh vegetables, per capita numbers are largely driven by a few dominant commodities. Fresh potatoes and tomatoes both account for over 20 pounds available per person, with potatoes reaching well over 30 pounds per person. Onions, lettuce and bell peppers are all available at over 10 pounds per person. These vegetables, largely considered traditional staples of the American diet, have consistently been the top fresh commodities available per capita in recent years.

U.S. fresh field-grown tomato production has trended higher over the past several decades with the most substantial growth occurring during the 1980s.

For processed vegetables, potatoes (including frozen, chips, dehydrated, and canned) and tomatoes are the two leading commodities in terms of per capita availability. In 2016, there were over 60 pounds of tomatoes available per capita, and potatoes were even higher at more than 75 pounds per person. Since 1970, availability of processed potatoes has surpassed fresh in the United States.

And the bad news? Even though the percentage of fresh produce consumption is rising, overall vegetable and fruit consumption still falls far below recommendations. Just 12 percent of Americans eat the minimum daily fruit recommendation of one and a half to two cups per day, and only 9 percent consume the minimum daily vegetable recommendation of two to three cups per day, according to a study published on Nov. 17.

Men, young adults and people living in poverty all had especially low rates of fruit and vegetable intake. While 15.1 percent of women eat the recommended amount of fruit each day, just 9.2 percent of men do the same. Similarly, 11.4 percent of wealthy Americans eat enough vegetables, but only 7 percent of poor people did the same, according to the CDC.


Supported by the Nebraska Corn Board

The Nebraska Corn Board, on behalf of 23,000 corn farmers in Nebraska, invests in market development, research, promotion and education of corn and value-added products. The board aims to work closely with the farmer-to-consumer food chain, to educate everyone about the role corn has in our everyday healthy lives. The Nebraska Corn Board is proud to sponsor the Farmer Goes to Market program to help bring its mission of expanding demand and value of Nebraska corn to the consumer, through the strongest touch point in that chain: the Nebraska retail grocer.

In patnership with the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association

The Nebraska Grocery Industry Association was formed in 1903 by a group of Omaha grocery store owners, wholesalers and vendors to allow them to promote independent food merchants and members of the food industry, and to promote education and cooperation among its membership. NGIA continues to represent grocery store owners and operators, along with wholesalers and vendors located throughout Nebraska, by promoting their success through proactive government relations, innovative solutions and quality services. NGIA offers efficient and economical programs. NGIA also lobbies on both a state and national level, ensuring that the voice of the food industry in Nebraska is heard by our representatives.

Supported by the Nebraska Farm Bureau

The farm and ranch families represented by Nebraska Farm Bureau are proud sponsors of the Farmer Goes to Market program. We take great pride in supporting Nebraska's agricultural foundation. A key part of that effort is to make sure we produce safe and affordable food. This newsletter is an important part of our effort to connect the two most important parts of the food chain -- the farmer and the grocer -- with the goal of increasing consumer awareness and information about how their food is raised in Nebraska.

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