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More than 1/4 of Virginians have poor access to fresh fruits and vegetables

April 20, 2015

Survey data released at fourth Weight of the State childhood obesity prevention conference

Richmond, VA – Twenty-eight percent of Virginians have difficulty finding fresh fruits and vegetables to purchase in their communities, according to the results of a new survey examining Virginians’ access to fresh fruit and vegetables. The survey was conducted by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) as part of its Fresh Spot campaign to increase the availability of fresh and healthy foods to all Virginians.

VFHY released the results of the survey at its fourth Weight of the State childhood obesity prevention conference, which was held Monday at the Hilton Richmond Hotel in Short Pump. First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe was the conference’s honorary chair and opened the conference with a speech about bridging the nutritional divide. The conference’s keynote speaker is Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor in New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. Nestle’s award-winning books include “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.”

More than 2,700 Fresh Spot surveys were collected in 169 Virginia communities between November 2014 and March 2015 by youth members of Y Street, VFHY’s nationally recognized volunteer group for high school students. The Fresh Spot survey also examines Virginians’ demand for fresh and healthy food.

“In today’s busy times, eating healthy can be a challenge,” says Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth Director of Marketing Danny Saggese. “Many communities in Virginia have only one major supermarket or large grocery store, making it difficult to find fast and convenient healthy food options.” The Fresh Spot campaign unites Virginians across the state in asking stores to make healthy shopping easier for themselves and their families. Currently, two-thirds of Virginian shoppers say they want to improve their health, but only half of shoppers feel their local grocery stores help them make healthy choices.

According to the survey, 67 percent of adult food purchasers for Virginia households would eat more fresh produce if stores in their neighborhoods or communities made fresh fruits and vegetables readily available.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 28 percent of Virginians surveyed do not think it is easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables to buy in their neighborhood or community.
  • 34 percent of household food purchasers report having to travel at least 15 minutes to purchase fresh produce.
  • 67 percent of adult household purchasers and 55 percent of young people say they would eat more fresh produce if stores in their neighborhoods or communities sold more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • 78 percent of those surveyed do not recall seeing fresh fruit or vegetable options in the checkout lanes of stores where they purchase most of their food.
  • Youth and adults alike reported seeing candy, gum, soda, and chips most frequently near checkout counters in stores where they make grocery purchases.
  • In the last seven days, 20 percent of Virginia young people visited a convenience store to buy food for themselves.
  • 53 percent of youth spend at least $5 a week at either a fast food restaurant or convenience store.
  • Virginians want more apples, strawberries, watermelon and mangos in their community stores.

VFHY’s Y Street youth volunteers leading the Fresh Spot campaign are excited to be helping improve the health of their communities by working with stores to increase access to fresh and healthy foods.

“The Fresh Spot Campaign is important to me because it is building a healthier Virginia. The amount, and quality of healthy foods offered is unequal throughout the state and not everyone has fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at a nearby market. Even those stores that do have healthy options don’t usually put these foods near the register help customers buy a healthy snack. I think this campaign can change this and provide a healthier lifestyle to people throughout the state,” said Jordan Wilson, a sophmore at Chesterfield County’s Cosby High School.

 

About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)

Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth empowers Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by promoting active, nutritious and tobacco-free living. Since the Foundation began its work in 2001, high school smoking in Virginia has been cut by more than 60 percent and the number of middle school smokers has dropped by more than 75 percent!

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, day cares and prevention programs across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaigns deliver prevention messaging to more than 500,000 children annually.

About Y Street

Started in 2004, Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s teen volunteer group for high school students. Y Street youth work on obesity and tobacco prevention to help create a healthier Virginia. Y Street members have been invited to testify before the FDA and have worked on public health issues with top government officials, including the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Virginia’s Governor, and Virginia’s Attorney General. Since 2004, almost 8,000 teens statewide have participated in Y Street. For more information, visit www.YStreet.org.

 

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