Fruits and veggies key in winter

Environmental factors have led to low consumption rates in the past.

Sadelle Schroeder

With the autumn growing season over and winter setting in, the amount and variety of local fresh fruits and vegetables available to consumers is waning.

Students at the University of Minnesota and other college campuses may have the least variety, often with limited access to grocery stores and markets off campus. The trick is finding healthy choices on campus, beginning in University dining locations.

Jenna Brott, health and wellness coordinator for University Dining Services, said the October release of NetNutrition, an online tool to provide nutrition information, could help guide students toward healthier foods.

Nutrition information was previously available in kiosks, but UDS discovered that students hesitated to use the kiosks due to judgment from peers. The online program can be accessed from home, rather than in a public dining hall.

According to a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in four adults in Minnesota consume fruit at least twice or vegetables at least three times each day. Only 11.6 percent of Minnesota adults reported consuming the recommended amount of both fruits and vegetables each day.

Environmental factors, such as the number of farmersâÄô markets available, play a large role in consumption of fruits and vegetables.

In Minnesota, there are 56 farmersâÄô markets registered with the Minnesota FarmersâÄô Market Association, with five locations in Minneapolis and one in
St. Paul.

The farmersâÄô market at the University, located on Church Street Southeast during late summer and early autumn months, recently completed its
sixth season.

Karen Chapin, who works with the UniversityâÄôs farmersâÄô market, praised the programâÄôs vendors for their quality produce and variety. She also attributed success to the atmosphere of the market.

“People are able to get healthier food through the market and can get outside and walk,” she said. “ThereâÄôs a sense of community, and weâÄôve been pleased with it all along.”

Implementation of an all-seasons farmersâÄô market, which would operate during winter months to provide students with a variety of fruit and vegetable options year round, has been suggested, but no action has been taken yet.

University professor Mary Story, director of the national program Healthy Eating Research, said that while a year-round farmersâÄô market may not be feasible, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to campus convenience stores and restaurants and decreasing the price of healthy foods could improve the rates of healthy food consumption.

Brott said UDS aims to provide healthy foods at discounted prices to help students choose these foods more often.

Requests for specific healthy food options made to UDS are often implemented.

Healthy food recommendations have been released for decades by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in various formats. In 1992, the USDA developed the traditional food pyramid, which advised adults to eat two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables each day.

The updated food pyramid, released in 2005, uses personalized recommendations to guide users toward healthy choices.

Fruit and vegetable intake recommendations vary for individuals based on criteria such as gender, age and activity level.