The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is this month addressing various aspects of poverty and nutrition - in particular the relationship between income and fruit and vegetable consumption.
The current Journal issue explores this particular theme via three studies focusing on different aspects of fruit and vegetable intake by low-income population in the US.
It will be important for researchers to gain insight into the correlation of fruit and vegetable consumption and income so as to develop public policy in the US and abroad with regards to reversing the tendency for low-income groups to be at a disadvantage for long-term health.
"Fruit and vegetable consumption is becoming a prominent indicator of health because of its potential role in chronic disease prevention," wrote Alanna Moshfegh in an introductory article.
As such, the link between poverty and the consumption of fruits and vegetables is significant because it concerns a large portion of populations in developed countries.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2005, 11 percent of the country's households were deemed food insecure. Oxfam in the UK also reports a high correlation between low income and food insecurity, with one in five non-working families on low or moderate incomes in 2000 being unable to afford some basic food items most days.
For this special issue, the Journal participated in the Council of Science Editors' Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development. More than 230 scientific journals have taken part, looking at poverty and development through the lenses of different academic fields of research.
One of the studies published looks into how food prices impact fruit and vegetable intake, while another focuses on the impact of geography on this same intake. The third study specifically compares the dietary health of low-income but food-secure adults compared to food-insecure adults in the Lower Mississippi Delta region in the US - a region having one of the country's highest rates of poverty.
The conclusion out of the three studies is that cost does have an impact on fruit and vegetable intake.
"Cost is one of the factors often cited as contributing to less fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income populations," wrote Moshfegh. "Cost, as well as convenience, has been shown to be a leading influence on food choice for low-income individuals."
This fact does not bode well when taking into consideration that in the US, less than 10 percent of the entire population is already thought to meet the USDA's dietary MyPyramid recommendations.
"Further, those in low-income households were less likely to meet the recommendations," said Moshfegh.
The studies drive home a message that nutritionists are all too aware of, and the trick now is to put effective policies into practice.
"….these authors have done justice to emphasizing the important role that nutrition research must play to unravel the answers about barriers and strategies to improve the diets of the poor," said Moshfegh.
The studies can be viewed online.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Vol 107: 11. (November 2007).
Moshfegh, Alanna. "Research to advance understanding of the interrelationship of poverty and nutrition." 1882-1885.
Cassady, Diana, et al. "Is price a barrier to eating more fruits and vegetables for low-income families?" 1909-1915.
Champagne, Catherine, et al. "Poverty and food intake in rural America: diet quality is lower in food insecure adults in the Mississippi Delta." 1886-1894.
Stimpson, Jim et al. "Neighborhood deprivation is associated with lower levels of serum carotenoids among adults participating in the third national health and nutrition examination survey." 1895-1902.