Industry Viewpoint: 2021 marks the international year of fruits and vegetables

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With many anxious to close out a tumultuous 2020, there is so much to look forward to in 2021. Just weeks ago, the United Nations General Assembly designated 2021 the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, with the Food and Agriculture Organization serving as the lead agency for the year-long celebration in collaboration with other associated organizations and bodies.

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Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak

As president and CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, I had the pleasure of representing North America, alongside other global leaders, during the IYFV official launch on Dec. 15. Health is a top priority in the United States, Canada and around the world given the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with a viable vaccine, fruits and vegetables bring health, happiness, and hope to so many.

The IYFV pronouncement serves to further illuminate what PBH considers to be a global fruit and vegetable consumption crisis affecting our culture, society and economy as well as our health as global citizens.

PBH is working in collaboration with our global colleagues to celebrate IYFV in a variety of ways. Specifically, PBH is honored to work with fellow members of the Global Alliance to Promote Fruits and Vegetables Consumption 5 A Day, a nonprofit forum of 39 national and international entities from 32 countries around the world, jointly working to foster the consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduce disease risk and enhance global health.

PBH represents the U.S. as part of AIAM5 and recently signed on to the group’s collective declaration to advance the IYFV. Within the framework of the 9th General Assembly of members of AIAM5 agreed that:

1. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, fruits and vegetables play a very relevant role, as they can improve nutrition and health status due to content in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals, acting as protection factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and as cornerstone of the immune function; and

2. AIAM5 is committed and willing to work eagerly to help their member to facilitate those countries where they operate to achieve the goals of the IYFV expected to have an impact in reducing hunger and poverty; enhancing food and nutrition security; improving livelihoods; and contributing to better natural resource management for a healthier and more sustainable food systems.

The IYFV comes as the 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans and corresponding consumer-facing dietary guidance are expected to be released early 2021. In addition, PBH is preparing its State of the Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in America research release — also in early 2021. When taken together, these three efforts, in addition to others, present an unprecedented opportunity to elevate new fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors as a collective priority for global governments and industry as well as civil society.

While our global commitment remains strong, Americans continue to fall short of meeting recommended goals for fruit and vegetable consumption. PBH is the only U.S. organization dedicated solely to helping consumers live happier, healthier lives by eating and enjoying more fruits and vegetable every single day. 

Specifically, PBH is committed to engaging Americans in relevant ways through its digital ecosystem and influencer networks, which have reached millions of consumers since the launch of our Have A Plant Movement in 2019. In 2021, additional PBH marketing efforts involve stakeholders across the supply-chain, with a focus on retail, culinary and digital and social activations.

For example, given their impact on buying behaviors at the point-of-purchase, PBH views grocery retailers as a key partner in achieving the IYFV initiative’s goals. Proprietary PBH survey data indicates 61 percent of retail dietitians promote fruits and vegetables every day, and we’re committed to providing them with new inspiration and ideas to support this work.

In 2021, we’re excited to expand the Have A Plant Movement with new offerings specific to retail including:

1) New resources such as quarterly toolkits and a Have A Plant Retail Dietitian Playbook;

2) Partnerships that meet shopper’s needs through in-store signage and promotional programs that specifically promote the of role fruits and vegetables in immune health;

3) A new pilot retail program during National Fruits & Veggies Month in September focused on raising consumer awareness of how fruits and vegetables are grown; and

4) Virtual cook-a-longs that celebrate fruits and vegetables on the plate set to inspire home cooks and alleviate recipe fatigue.

At PBH, we believe that something must change if we want fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors to improve. We cannot simply go back to “business as usual.” If a global pandemic does not change consumer behavior and disrupt our thinking about what is possible, what will? The time to come together and act is now, and we couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come in 2021. In the meantime, we hope you have a happy and healthy new year, and by all means, Have A Plant! 

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