USDA’S Vilsack: Eating More Fruits and Vegetables for Better Health

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor, CaliforniaAgToday

At the recent virtual Forbes Thrive Future of Food summit, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke about encouraging all people to eat better—even those we trade with.

“We’re trying to figure out ways in which we can educate consumers about the benefits of a particular kind of product, whether it’s dairy or whether it’s potatoes or whether it’s peppers or whatever it is,” said Vilsack.  “And making sure that people understand that we’re growing demand at the same time we’re trying to do a trade relationship. I think that’s one way of lessening the tension and encouraging more of these restrictive practices that make it more difficult for trade to take place.”

In this country, making sure that we understand, we collectively have to consume more of these fruits and vegetables if we’re really going to get on the other side of a serious obesity issue. “More than 70% of Americans today, adults, are overweight or obese. And 60% of us have chronic diseases, most of which are connected to diet. 40% of us have 2 or more chronic diseases,” noted Vilsack.

“The health care costs of this are enormous and the lack of productivity, as a result, is also troublesome,” said Vilsack. “And we have 18 and 1/2% of our youngsters who are obese today and a significant percentage of them are overweight who will take into adulthood those same chronic diseases, that same productivity challenge. So it’s in our best interest for us to figure out that my plate, with 1/2 our plate being fruits and vegetables, that’s building demand in the United States. And obviously, if you build demand, you have to have supply and the supply can come from lots of different places,” noted Vilsack.