Both individual and community influences affect a person's perceptions of the variety, affordability, and quality of fruits and vegetables, concludes a new study. These are factors that can affect whether a person consumes the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables that can help prevent chronic disease, note the study authors. They surveyed 2,479 adults, many of whom were overweight and suffered from several chronic diseases, and were recruited from 22 family practices in North Carolina. The survey asked about their perceptions of the variety, affordability, and quality of fruit and vegetables. The researchers also conducted focus groups, interviews, community mapping, and photographs with a subsample of 32 people.
The results revealed a complex web of factors and perceptions that underpinned nutrition behaviors. Individual barriers to eating more fruits and vegetables were food preferences, fatigue of taste buds for certain foods, life stresses, lack of forethought in meal planning, current personal health status, aging, and perceived impact of food on chronic disease status. Individual facilitators were presence of chronic disease, lifetime experience related to intake of fruits and vegetables, preferences for certain fruits and vegetables, and personal or spousal health status.
Environmental community facilitators were availability of home gardens, low cost of foods at farm stands, and childhood exposure to fruits and vegetables. Perceived environmental barriers included contradictory media messages related to nutrition and health outcomes, limited worksite food options, food availability, and food cost at grocery stores.
The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13353). More details are in "Perceptions of individual and community environmental influences on fruit and vegetable intake, North Carolina, 2004," by Josephine E.A. Boyington, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., Britta Schoster, M.P.H., Kathryn Remmes Martin, M.P.H., and others, in the January 2009 Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy 6(1), pp. 1-15.