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Initial Report on Public Health
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Narrative

The fruit and vegetable consumption indicator estimates the age-standardized proportion of the population age 12 years and older that reported consuming fruits and vegetables five or more times per day.

Research has shown that diets containing substantial and varied amounts of vegetables and fruit:

  • may prevent certain types of cancer 92
  • are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease 93
  • are associated with healthy weights and decreased risk of obesity 94

Lack of adequate fruit and vegetable consumption has become an important public health issue. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (2.2) 59% of Canadian children 2-17 years of age consume fruit and vegetables less than five times a day. 95 These children are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who consume fruit and vegetables more frequently.

Fruit and vegetable consumption is influenced by many factors, including:

  • physical access within a community
  • food affordability
  • knowledge of healthy food choices
  • food skills such as shopping, budgeting, preparation, and storage

Public health programs and services related to healthy eating and food security issues target both individuals, to build food skills and promote healthy behaviours, and communities to promote food security and awareness of healthy eating. Programs and services that support healthy eating and food security include:

  • community gardens
  • school nutrition programs
  • awareness campaigns including comparisons of the cost of a nutritious food basket to the cost of living

The annual tracking of a cost of the Nutritious Food Basket for an Ontario family is used to monitor food affordability across Ontario and to advocate for food access and security for specific populations. Data for the 2008 cost of the Nutritious Food Basket across Ontario are shown within the Health Unit Profile table.

The Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program is a provincial initiative that aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and increase awareness of the importance of fruits and vegetables among elementary school children in select communities in Northern Ontario, and to educate elementary school-aged children and their families about the importance of eating fruit and vegetables, and the associated benefits of healthy eating and physical activity to overall health. The project provides fresh Ontario produce twice a week in conjunction with a curriculum-based resource that outlines the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Northern Ontario was selected for the project because of the higher proportion of overweight children, the higher cost of the Nutritious Food Basket in Northern Ontario, and because 62% of children in the region aged 12-19 do not eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

In 2007, 42% of individuals age 12 years and older reported consuming fruits and vegetables five or more times per day. Based on 36 public health units in Ontario, the highest proportion of people age 12 years and older that consumed fruits and vegetables five or more times per day was 50% and the lowest was 29%.

Indicator Definition

Definition:

The fruit and vegetable consumption indicator estimates the age-standardized proportion of the population age 12 years and older that reported consuming fruits and vegetables five or more times per day.

Data Source(s):

Numerator: Canadian Community Health Survey 2007, Statistics Canada, Ontario Share File distributed by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Denominator: Canadian Community Health Survey 2007, Statistics Canada, Ontario Share File distributed by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

Formula:

Weighted number of respondents age 12+ years who Consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day

Weighted number of respondents age 12+ years
 
x 100

Notes:

  • Numerator: FVCGTOT= 5 to 10 "servings" of fruit and vegetables (2) and more than 10 "servings" of vegetables (3)
  • Denominator: FVCGTOT= less than 5 "servings" (1), 5 to 10 "servings" of fruit and vegetables (2) and more than 10 "servings" of vegetables (3)
  • Excluded if answer was not stated
  • Age groups in years used for direct age-standardization: 12-19, 20-34, 35-49, 50-64, 65-74, 75+
  • Direct age-standardization to the 1991 Canadian population

92 World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective. Washington, DC: AIRC; 2007.
93 Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96(21):1577-84.
94 Hall JN, Moore S, Harper SB, Lynch JW. Global variability in fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Prev Med. 2009;36(5):402-409, e5.
95 Shields M. Nutrition: findings from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Measured obesity: overweight Canadian children and adolescents [Internet]. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada; 2005. Chart 9: Overweight and obesity rates, by fruit and vegetable consumption, household population aged 2 to 17, Canada excluding territories, 2004.Retrieved April 23, 2009 from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-620-m/2005001/c-g/child-enfant/4053588-eng.htm.

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