Canada Beats US to the Punch

Post by Nancy E. Roman, President and CEO, PHA (@nancyroman1)

Canada is doing something I’ve long thought the US should do: Subsidizing fruits and vegetables – the foods most likely to support the health of their citizens.

Granted, this is a food subsidy program for the northernmost reaches of Canada that was established to help offset the high cost of food there. Still, their emphasis on fruits and vegetables is smart.

To review the facts view the graph below.

Obesity Prevalence by Region

Obesity Prevalence by Region Affiliation to UN Food & Agriculture Organization/WHO

And here in our own country, 4 in 10 Americans live with obesity – a condition known to be associated with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. So we need both government policy and corporate practice to begin shifting the culture around food, and increasing access to health-promoting foods like fruits and vegetables. After years of trying to do one or the other, it becomes clear these are interdependent. We can’t change demand without changing the culture, and we can’t change the culture without adequate supply. So, we must pursue both objectives simultaneously.

A 2017 report from PLOS Medicine showed that the most effective policy intervention the US could take to reduce deaths due to cardiovascular disease would be to subsidize fruits and vegetables by 10 percent. Canada’s program subsidizes frozen fruits and vegetables, which makes sense because they are highly nutritious, but not as perishable as fresh fruits and vegetables. If we were to do something similar, we could save more than 150,000 lives over a 15 year period – and quality of life would rise for many more.