Producing enough fruits and vegetables to meet dietary recommendations in the United States


Zach Conrad, of USDA's Agricultural Research Service, spoke at the event, "Aligning the Food System to Meet Dietary Needs: Fruits and Vegetables," on June 2-3, 2017, at the UC Davis Conference Center.

Abstract: Poor diet is the predominant risk factor for the leading causes of mortality in the US. Accordingly, Americans are regularly advised to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables. Yet little is known about whether the US agricultural system can produce enough food to achieve this goal on a national scale. There are also limits to how quickly the agricultural sector can adapt to shifting food demands. Logistically and economically, producers are motivated to maintain production levels of their current suite of crops, and supply chain infrastructure is often inflexible to change. Biologically, every crop has its own growing conditions that need to be met in order to thrive, so the availability of suitable cropland for each crop can limit the availability of certain foods for consumers. And there is a circular problem to increasing fruit and vegetable production: while food production on a large scale can enhance ecosystem services, it also has the potential to deplete or degrade natural resources, threaten environmental sustainability, and reduce yields, thereby limiting the agricultural capacity to accommodate improved dietary patterns. Increasing fruit and vegetable production on a large scale and in a sustainable way presents system-level challenges that require system-level solutions. Public health nutrition and sustainable agriculture are too related to be successfully pursued in isolation, and increased opportunities to bridge these domains are urgently needed to solve our most pressing problems.

(Presentation not available.)