By Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, Ms, RDN President and Chief Executive Officer Produce For Better Health Foundation (PBH)
To say that we are in unprecedented times is an understatement. Up until a few months ago, most Americans had likely never heard of a coronavirus. Today, this microscopic particle is changing the trajectory of businesses and complete sectors; necessitating the cancellation of major social and professional events, including our annual PBH Consumer Connection Conference among many others; and occupying consumers’ airwaves, shopping habits and food choices.
What is our key to thriving as a produce industry while trying to effectively react to the current uncertainty facing our nation? We must be out there supporting our consumers. We must be effectively and convincingly communicating the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption — to health and overall well-being. In a word, we must not rest on our laurels. The time to promote produce is now. Here’s why:
The coronavirus will pass; but will the consumption crisis?
There is not one, but rather two, public health crises occurring right now. In retrospect, the coronavirus may very well be viewed as a very serious, yet short-term, health event. Conversely, consumption of fruits and vegetables has been, and remains to be, persistent and pervasively below recommended levels. In fact, fruits and vegetables consistently comprise 2 out of 3 of the under-consumed food groups on the plate, and 9 out of 10 Americans don’t get enough. Some might say Americans’ under-consumption of produce is a seriously chronic condition. We can end this consumption crisis, but we need to work together.
Immune-boosting foods are incredibly compelling — especially now.
Along with a multitude of other health and well-being benefits, fruits and vegetables are critical in supporting a healthy immune system. While consumers already know that produce is healthy — we must remind them that fruits and vegetables should continue to be staples in their household at this time and why. It also doesn’t hurt to mention that, based on emerging research and PBH consumer insights, fruit and vegetable intake is associated with increased happiness and long-term life satisfaction — a huge selling point when someone’s lifestyle and social connections have drastically changed overnight. Check out Fruitsandveggies.org for PBH’s insights on happiness and well-being and latest series on the immune-boosting power of produce.
Consumers’ food choices based on what they feel, rather than what they know.
Americans are more knowledgeable than ever about the health virtues of produce. Yet, consumption remains flat — chronically flat. This demonstrates that a change in consumption is going to take a lot more than increasing knowledge. Novel PBH behavioral insights point to a need to shift consumers from knowing to feeling and doing. These insights, and others, have informed the PBH Have A Plant™ consumer movement.
Fruits and vegetables are a safe choice.
In a pandemic, misinformation abounds. We know food safety is a top concern of producers, retailers, foodservice providers and consumers alike. Ultimately, we want to create a relationship of trust, as well as enable consumers to make decisions based on facts rather than myths. In doing so, we must directly communicate how this virus can and cannot be transmitted. At this time, it cannot be spread through food, but rather only through respiratory secretions. In times like this, consumers want and deserve a united voice among leading produce providers to reassure them fruits and vegetables are still a safe choice.
The bottom line? Dining options are increasingly limited right now. We have been asked to implement social distancing and/or limit our interactions with others. One of the few places we think we can go to is the grocery store. And… what we eat is how we feel. So, let’s encourage consumers to stock up on fruits and vegetables for their own health and well-being, as well as their families. Here’s a plan… Have A Plant™!
About PBH and the Have A Plant Movement
Since 1991, PBH has invested decades into developing trended insights on attitudes toward all forms of fruit and vegetable consumption, in addition to campaigns and partnerships with government, food industry stakeholders, health professionals and other thought leaders to collaborate, facilitate and advocate for increased intake. PBH’s new behavior-based call-to-action is Have A Plant™. Rooted in behavioral science, PBH’s transformative Have A Plant™ Movement is an invitation that will inspire people with compelling reasons to believe in the powerful role fruits and vegetables can play to create happy, healthy and active lives.
Be sure to join the Have A Plant™ Movement and get new recipes, snack hacks, meal ideas and other tips from chefs, registered dietitians, as well as food and wellness experts by visiting www.fruitsandveggies.org. Follow us on Facebook @fruitsandveggies; on Twitter @fruits_veggies; on Instagram @fruitsandveggies; on Pinterest @fruits_veggies; and on LinkedIn at Produce for Better Health Foundation. And remember to #haveaplant.
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, is the President and CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH). At PBH, she guides the Foundation’s efforts with hundreds of public and private partners to advance the overall effort of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption for happier, healthier lives. Under her leadership through a two-year transformation, the organization launched the Have A Plant™ Movement in 2019.
Prior to joining PBH, Wendy was the Global Lead for Food, Nutrition and Health Partnerships at the Monsanto Company (now Bayer Crop Science). While at Monsanto, her efforts focused on bridging the food, nutrition, culinary and agriculture communities for greater understanding and collaboration.
Prior to Monsanto, Wendy served as Senior Director of Health and Wellness at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation in Washington, DC. While at IFIC, she directed food and nutrition communication strategies, including consumer research, opinion leader and media outreach, as well as publications and partnerships, for multiple food safety and nutrition-related issues.
Wendy earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Nutrition and Exercise Science from the University of Missouri, Columbia and James Madison University, respectively. She completed her dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital — an affiliate of the Yale University School of Medicine.