Eat Your Vegetables

Two news stories that popped into my e-Mail inbox this month provoked strong, diametrically opposite reactions, and because I’m a “bad news first” sort of guy, here goes.

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest really ought to change its name. I’m thinking the “Center for Science in the Public Disinterest.” Or, perhaps more accurately: the “Center for Science That Will Undermine the Public’s Interest.”

The center came out with a Top 10 list of riskiest foods, and if you didn’t see it, you probably think it has candy, fried foods, etc. No, the riskiest food, according to the Center for Science That Will Cause the Public to Balloon Into Elephants is … leafy greens! No joke. That’s right, Popeye, hold the spinach. One of the healthiest foods on the planet is risky.

Yes, the Center for Science that May Lead to the Public’s Heart Disease has a point. There have been some serious E. coli incidents. The outbreak in the fall of 2006 was certainly no joke, nor is food safety in general. But I still say the average person faces a far, far greater risk of dying from obesity-related health problems than from food pathogens.

Kids today are expected to be the first generation that won’t live longer than their parents, all because of obesity. That’s really sad, and the folks at the Center for Science that Leads to the Public’s Early Demise should be doing something about it. Incidentally, so should you and I. Everyone involved in vegetable production should take every opportunity to promote produce consumption, not just for their own interest, but because it’s in, ahem, the public’s best interest.

Again, Eat Your Vegetables

The good news item concerned how those enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will now be able to use their monthly vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables. The vouchers seem small, from $6 for kids to $10 for breast-feeding moms, but it really adds up. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president, nutrition and health at the United Fresh Produce Association, says it equates to $600 million annually in new produce sales.

It seems strange produce wasn’t on the WIC list before. But back when WIC was established 30 years ago, hunger was the problem, so eggs, cheese, milk, and protein were highlighted. Today, obesity is the problem. (See above.)

Growers certainly won’t benefit right away, she notes. But these are new sales, and in addition, these kids who grow up on fruits and vegetables will turn into produce-buying adults. (Unless of course a certain Center has its way.)

Anyway, you growers might want to start thinking about how you might be able to benefit, says DiSogra, because it will eventually have an impact. “When Mann Packing has to plant more broccoli,” she says, “I’ll be thrilled.”