The FNV campaign, which the Partnership for a Healthier America launched in 2015, initially concentrated on urban and rural areas with limited fresh produce consumption, such as Fresno, Calif., and Hampton Roads, Va., but it quickly spread nationwide and now is expanding at the state level.
By using celebrities in bright, bold and quirky ads that show children that the people they admire eat fruits and vegetables not just because they have to, but because they want to helped the FNV campaign significantly increased produce consumption, according to PHA.
It reports that research it conducted in pilot markets shows seven out of 10 survey respondents say they ate more fruits and vegetables after seeing or hearing about the campaign, and grocery retailers that brought the campaign in-store saw a measurable rise in produce sales.
Building on this initial success, FNV now is expanding through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education initiatives at the state level, PHA announced at its annual Summit in Washington, DC, earlier this month.
Through public-private partnerships with the California Department of Public Health, the University of Georgia SNAP-Ed and the Colorado Department of Human Services, the FNV campaign will focus on reaching low-income consumers in communities in these states with limited access to affordable and diverse produce.
The partnership with the California Department of Public Health also is notable because with a media plan valued at more than $4 million, it represents the largest single investment in FNV to date, according to PHA.
Access to produce should not be determined by your zip code
The campaign’s new direction also is significant because it recognizes that “getting kids excited about healthy food is only half the battle,” former super-model Cindy Crawford told attendees at the PHA Summit.
“Families have to be able to find these fruits and vegetables in their neighborhood stores and kids have to see them on their school cafeteria trays if they are going to eat them,” she said.
“What is more, they have to be priced affordably or families won’t buy them. Access and affordability are two more really important issues that PHA and its partners are tackling and another reason to be proud to be affiliated with this organization,” added Crawford, who is one of more than 85 celebrities who bring their star power to help market produce to children.
“They are out there making sure that fresh, affordable produce is available in convenience and grocery stores and that there are enough stores serving neighborhoods that have too long gone without healthy options,” Crawford said. “Whether or not you or your children eat healthy, nutritious meals should never be determined by where you live or how much money you make.”
The mind-body connection
Crawford also urged attendees to address children’s mental health and its relationship to their physical health and diet.
“For children who struggle with their weight, the link between physical and mental health is huge and can be exacerbated by negative messages from their peers, from our culture and sometimes even from the people who love them. And that can be very damaging,” Crawford said.
She pointed to research in the Journal of Pediatrics that found children with obesity in the third through sixth grades are 65% more likely to be bullied than their peers who do not struggle with food issues.
“Other studies have shown that bullying has long term effects on the brain, and it can alter levels of stress hormones that lead to chronic disease so there is a very physical consequence to making children feel badly about their weight,” Crawford said.
As a result, she added, “we have to be careful never do that, while at the same time encouraging them to eat the food that will make them as healthy as possible.”
The best way to do that, she said, is together, through partnerships such as the ones created by PHA through FNV.