National Food Program Improves Access to Fruit and Vegetables

PITTSBURGH, PA – August 8, 2006 – Yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to encourage families on the national food assistance program to eat more fruits and vegetables demonstrates growing support for the benefits of canned foods and their contribution to the American diet.  The Canned Food Alliance (CFA) commends the USDA for recognizing the importance that canned foods play in providing nutrition to American families through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which serves millions of low-income mothers and children across the country. 

The proposed changes ensure that a wide choice for fruits and vegetables is included in food packages for women and children.  Participants will be given vouchers for the purchase of fruits and vegetables in a variety of forms – fresh, canned, dried and frozen, totaling $8 per month for each woman and $6 a month per child.  This corresponds to about one serving of fruits or vegetables a day. 

In addition to adding canned fruits and vegetables, the proposal now allows specific types of canned beans and peas as a substitution for dry mature beans and peas.  Canned light tuna will continue to be accepted, however the proposed amount has increased 4 oz. and will allow for 30 oz. total.  The proposal also now accepts canned salmon and sardines as approved alternatives. 

“Yesterday’s decision illustrates the importance of promoting foods in all forms – including canned,” said Rich Tavoletti, director of the Canned Food Alliance.  “We applaud the USDA for recognizing that canned foods play an important role in helping women and children get the nutrition they need.  Canned food makes healthful eating easy and accessible for everyone, everywhere, every day.”

In April, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies proposed changes to the WIC program that included encouraging consumption of more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  The initiative is the first to apply the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans to a national food program.  The CFA reminds consumers that canned foods play a significant role in helping women, children, and all family members meet MyPyramid’s recommendations, as advised by the USDA.

USDA’s proposed changes are open for public comment.  A final decision on the revised food packages is expected later this year. 

Americans Plagued by Nutritional Deficiencies

Americans eat a lot of food, but often not the right foods in the most healthful amounts.  Every day, millions of Americans continue to make ill-informed and unhealthful food choices, often resulting in low intake of important nutrients.  Failing to eat enough nutrient-rich foods is a nationwide problem that affects the general population, regardless of socio-economic status, gender, age or ethnicity. 

Poor nutrition doesn’t discriminate – in fact it is a surprising, yet common problem in the United States.  According to the 2005 USDA National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics: 

  • 93 percent of Americans don't get the daily intake of vitamin E recommended by the Institute of Medicine
  • 44 percent don’t get enough vitamin A
  • Almost one-third don’t get enough vitamin C
  • 14 percent skimp on foods rich in vitamin B6

Studies show that when prepared for the table, canned foods are as nutritious as their cooked fresh and frozen counterparts.   Smart, simple choices like stocking your pantry and cooking with convenient and healthful foods can help Americans lead a healthier lifestyle.

“Families that establish healthy eating habits are laying the groundwork for a lifetime of good health,” said Roberta Larson Duyff, registered dietitian, author of the award-winning 365 Days of Healthy Eating from the American Dietetic Association and of children’s nutrition books and school-based nutrition curriculum for the USDA.  She also is spokesperson for the Canned Food Alliance.  “I’m pleased the USDA has updated this important national program to include canned foods, which will help all families make smart food choices and overcome nutritional deficiencies.”

Easy Nutrition Essentials 

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in the diet has never been easier.  Visit for hundreds of ways kids and their families can take steps to healthful eating; easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly recipes; advice for stocking a healthful pantry that sets the foundation for mealtime success; and the latest studies about canned food nutrition.

“Americans continue to seek recipes for nutritious, flavorful meals,” said Tavoletti.  “Canned foods also help families meet the government’s recommendations by providing nutritious, convenient and quick solutions for meals and snacks."

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