Increase physical activity and good nutrition, and decrease tobacco use and 2 more...less...

Resilient Communities: Vermonters live in safe communities with the capacity to respond to disease, disability, and times of vulnerability

Vermonters are Healthy

% of adults who do NOT eat 5 fruits & vegetables per day


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Story Behind the Curve

Updated March 2017

Author: Physical Activity and Nutrition Program, Vermont Department of Health

The recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables for adults is 5 servings. At every meal, half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. National data and best practices indicate consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is beneficial and helps reduce the risk of obesity.

In 2015, the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data showed that 79% of Vermont adults reported they did not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is the same as the 2013 level.

The Vermont Department of Health, along with its partners below, works to increase Vermonters access to fruits and vegetables through promotion of local foods and farmers markets, funding taste testing and cooking classes for low income Vermonters, and promotion and funding of worksite gardens, along with working on the policy level through work on town plans to increase access to fruits and vegetables.

  • Vermont Department of Health District Offices: Community-level work to support community gardens, farmers markets, worksite gardens and town plans that support access to healthy foods.
  • American Cancer Society: Promotes eating five fruits and vegetables a day through education and advocacy programs.
  • Healthcare providers: Includes discussion of the importance of fruit and vegetable consumption with patients.
  • Worksites: Provide opportunities for fruit and vegetable consumption during the work day, including worksite gardens and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).
  • Farm to Plate: Promotes local fruits and vegetable access through farmers markets, CSAs and locally sourced ingredients in restaurants and stores.
  • Farmers markets: Local fruits and vegetables offered throughout Vermont with most farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits for payment.
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets: Promotion of healthy, local foods in schools, communities and businesses.
  • American Heart Association: Promotes eating five fruits and vegetables a day through education and advocacy programs.
  • Vermont Community Garden Network: Promotes gardening through school, community and worksite gardens, seed giveaways and toolkits.
  • Vermont Food Bank: Promotes consumption of fruits and vegetables through fresh produce, taste tests and cooking demonstrations available at food banks.
What Works

There are several evidence-based strategies that can be used to increase the number of adults eating the daily recommended servings of fruit and vegetables:

  • Worksite programs that encourage healthy food options have been found to increase fruit and vegetable intake through strategies such as worksite gardens, having basic kitchen facilities available and providing healthy foods in onsite cafeterias and cafes.
  • Healthy Community Design strategies such as incorporating community gardens, farmers markets, and zoning policies for grocery stores to be in central locations that are accessible. These benefit teens and adults alike.

At the Vermont Department of Health, multiple strategies are being utilized to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among adults:

  • SNAP-ED is an evidence-based program that teaches people using or eligible for Three Squares (SNAP) about good nutrition and how to make their food dollars stretch further, including how to use fruits and vegetables in cooking.
  • Fruit and vegetable pilot prescription program: Through a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, the Health Department is partnering with pediatric offices in two regions of Vermont that are distributing coupons to families for free fruit and vegetables. Each family can receive up to $150 in coupons to redeem at local supermarkets, co-ops and farmers markets.
  • The Vermont Department of Health’s worksite wellness program provides small grants to employers with 100 or fewer employees to create worksite gardens and other changes that encourage employee wellness.
Why Is This Important?

Fruits and vegetables contribute important nutrients for the human body. Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a decreased risk of many chronic diseases including obesity, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and some cancers. Eating fruits and vegetables can also help with weight management. Encouraging adults to eat more fruits and vegetables will provide them with the nutrients they need and help control their weight.

Notes on Methodology

Vermont tracks risk behaviors and chronic disease using a telephone survey of adults called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). Since 1990, Vermont, along with the 49 other states, Washington D.C. and U.S. territories, has participated in the BRFSS with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( The CDC provides the Vermont Department of Health with funding each year to carry out the survey. Several thousand Vermonters are randomly and anonymously selected and called annually, on both landlines and cell phones. An adult (18 or older) is asked a uniform set of questions. The results are weighted to represent the adult population of the state.

Note that beginning in 2011 the CDC implemented changes to the BRFSS weighting methodology in order to more accurately represent the adult population. While this makes calculations more representative of the population, the changes in methodology also limit the ability to compare results from 2011 forward with those from previous years. The Vermont Department of Health recommends that comparisons between BRFSS data from 2011 forward and earlier years be made with caution. Statistical differences may be due to methodological changes, rather than changes in opinion or behavior.

Prevalence and percentages are calculated by using descriptive statistical procedures using software such as SPSS, SAS, and/or SUDAAN. These statistics describe the proportion of individuals with a given trait in the population during a specified period of time.

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