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Vermonters are Healthy

% of adolescents in grades 9-12 who do NOT eat 5 fruits & vegetables per day

76%2015

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Story Behind the Curve

Updated March 2017

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


The US Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 recommend 5 servings of fruits and vegetables for adolescents. At every meal, half of the plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables is beneficial and helps reduce the risk of obesity.

In 2015, the Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data showed that 76% of Vermont adolescents grades 9-12 reported they did not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is slightly below the 2013 level of 77%.

One possible reason for this change is that in 2012 the National School Lunch and Breakfast program menu standards were changed to include more fruits and vegetables in each meal.

Partners
What Works

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

  • School based programs/policies that encourage healthy eating and nutrition education can help students build healthy eating habits, and understand the benefits of those habits to their health. These include Farm to School, in which 83% of Vermont schools participate.
  • 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.

More information can be found in the CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables.

Strategy

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

  • Farm to School: Schools participating in Farm to School programs help students to learn about where their food comes from, while also supporting local farms. Often students have a hand in growing and preparing fruits and vegetables through these programs. Farm to school exposes students to new fruits and help them develop the habit of eating fruit daily.
  • USDA School lunch and breakfast requirements: In 2010 the school lunch requirements changed to include healthier items including more whole grains, adjusted portion sizes and fruit at each meal. Additionally, participating schools and school districts are required to write and implement a local wellness policy that focuses on nutrition and physical activity. The Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Agency of Education and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets developed the Vermont School Wellness Policy Guidelines to support schools in this work. The Vermont Department of Health is also working directly with schools and school districts to assist in the policy development.
  • Improved access for low income families through SNAP/Three Squares: The Vermont Department of Health is partnering with 3Squares to help those eligible for 3Squares learn how to store and use fresh produce. Many 3Squares participants are parents with teens at home.
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 teens to eat more fruits and vegetables will provide them with the nourishment they need as they continue to grow. It also will build healthy habits to carry through adulthood.

Notes on Methodology

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a paper survey administered in Vermont middle and high schools every two years since 1993. The survey is sponsored by the Department of Health's Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, and the Department of Education's Coordinated School Health Programs and the CDC. The YRBS measures the prevalence of behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disease, and injury among youth. Vermont surveys over 30,000 students at each administration. Weighted data is compiled to generate a representative state sample, and local data is used by schools, supervisory unions, health programs and other local organizations. The YRBS is completed in over 40 other states and there is a national weighted sample for comparison. Data are updated as it becomes available and timing is based on when results from the survey are released.

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.

Note that prior to 2013, statewide estimates were generated by weighting repossess from a representative sample of schools. In 2013, the methodology was changed and all student responses were used in creating statewide estimates, allowing for more accurate reporting. 2011 data were recalculated in the same way as 2013 data in order to improve comparisons.

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