Extension@YourService: Why More Fruits and Veggies Matter

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

Many North Carolina residents worry about expanding waistlines and the effect it has on their health. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measure for determining obesity based on a person’s weight and height. Despite its wide use, it is not the best indicator for health issues caused by extra fat or sedentary behavior. What is? Your waist circumference! A little extra around your waist (more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men) is the best indicator for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. And what is the cure? Fruits and vegetables! Only 12.4% of Richmond County residents consume three or more servings of vegetables per day. As a likely result, 80% of Richmond County residents are overweight or obese, and almost 23% have diabetes.

Government policies have started to focus on making healthier food more widely available, especially to rural or low-income areas. One strategy is to increase the number of food retail stores in the area. Policy makers believed that residents would become healthier because they would have increased access to healthy food, and therefore would consume a healthier diet. Think again! Participants did not decrease BMI’s or increase fruit and vegetable intake just because it was more available to them.

In 2011, the CDC found six different reasons that prevented consumers in Orange and Durham Counties of North Carolina from buying more fruits and vegetables including cost, transportation, lack of quality and variety, as well as lack of time and convenience. Although we are all guilty of using one of these excuses to go through the drive through, these barriers should not hold anyone back from making healthier food choices.

According to USDA data, nearly all households (99%) make 11 separate acts to acquire food each week. With so many options and new stores on the way, it is important to consider all your options. Richmond County Farmers’ markets provide fresh produce picked daily to local residents during the summer months. SNAP benefit recipients have even more incentive to shop at local farmer’s markets with dollar for dollar matching programs offered up to $20. To learn more about how to use an EBT card through a free educational program, “More in My Basket at the Market”, at the Richmond County Farmer’s Markets please contact Janice Roberts at the Richmond County Cooperative Extension Office at 910-997-8255.

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, health, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Janice Roberts, MS at 910-997-8255.