A fresh approach to our fruit & veg intake
Despite the fact that we’re blessed with an abundance of fresh produce, the majority of Australians are not eating anywhere near enough fruit and vegies. When it comes to vegetables, Aussies fall alarmingly short of the recommended daily intake, with just 7% of adults and 5% of children meeting the recommended guideline for daily vegetable intake. And just half of Australian adults – and two thirds of children – are eating enough fruit.
These are pretty concerning figures. Fruit and vegetables are essential for good health and a strong immune system – something we should all be worrying about right now, due to both the current COVID-19 pandemic and the coming flu season.
In an attempt to address the problem, Australia’s leading health professionals and horticulture industry groups have teamed up to launch the Fruit & Vegetable Consortium, which brings together key organisations to collectively advocate for comprehensive action to get Australians to start eating more fresh fruit and vegetables.
The inaugural Chair of the Consortium is Nutrition Australia CEO Lucinda Hancock, with other founding members including AUSVEG, the Cancer Council of Victoria, the Heart Foundation, the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Melbourne Market, Nutrition Australia, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, the Good Foundation and the Produce Marketing Association of Australia – New Zealand and VicHealth.
Hancock says lifting fruit and veg consumption is not only a critical step to improving the nutrition and health of the public, but also a way to reduce government expenditure.
“Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to protect against high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers,” she says.
If every Australian ate an additional half a cup of vegetables per day, government health expenditure would reduce by an estimated $100 million per year ($60.7 million to the Commonwealth Government and $39.2 million to the states and territories).
“The job of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is too much for a single person or organisation,” Hancock says. “This consortium was born out of a common imperative to increase consumption with the aim of improving health outcomes for Australians.”
James Whiteside, CEO of AUSVEG, the peak industry body for vegetable growers, says it’s important that growers work with health professionals, researchers and other organisations that possess the same goals to develop and promote programs that will meaningfully change behaviours to increase consumption of vegetables and fruits.
“Growers are deeply committed to increasing vegetable consumption and are keen to work alongside the food and health industries to improve the health and wellbeing of Australian men, women and children,” he says. “The health benefits of increasing vegetable consumption are well-documented, but rates of consumption are still unacceptably low. We need to work together to pool our research, knowledge and passion to remedy this.”
The consortium’s first major project is to develop a business case and prospectus for potential funders, including government, retailers and other sectors to outline the investment needed for a sustained, comprehensive behavioural change campaign.
“We’re hopeful we can work with industry groups, sectors, farmers and others with a goal to fostering a healthier population to develop a business case for a substantial behavioural change campaign that will make a difference for generations of Australians,” Hancock says.
“The importance of eating fruit and vegetables has never been more critical. I urge everyone who has an interest in the health of their families, friends and communities to support the cause of the consortium and see how you can help make a difference.”