Fruit and Vegetable Diet Helps the Local Economy

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"Five-a-Day" diet pays local dividends in Iowa.

Learn how a fruit and vegetable diet might hypothetically help improve Iowa’s local economy.

Good health and good business can be home grown. Several states are looking into the possibilities, but Iowa has determined its citizens could eat their way to prosperity — if they consumed five servings a day of locally grown fruits and vegetables for three months. Savoring such a menu for the fruit and vegetable diet, recommended by the USDA, Iowans would see the state’s economy improve quicker than their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The “five-a-day” veggie and fruit diet of Iowa-produced apples, carrots, spinach, squash and tomatoes would generate $331 million in total economic output, according to Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames. Its research also found there would be $123 million in total labor income and 4,484 jobs in Iowa.

But to get those results, Iowans would have to make huge shifts in their eating habits, and growers would have to replant their fields with the produce specified in the study. Less than 20 percent of Iowans eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits daily; and very little of the produce targeted for consumption in the study is grown within the state.

The economic impact analysis worked with these assumptions:

  • 31,800 acres of crop land would be required to produce 382 million pounds of produce with expected farm-level receipts of $101 million.
  • Prices were based on conventional rather than organic produce, and retail value was estimated at $430 million.
  • Half of the new fruit and vegetables would be sold directly by producers and the reminder would be available in retail stores.
  • All produce would be sold fresh for in-state consumption.

“Even though the scenarios are hypothetical,” says Rich Pirog, head of the center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, “it is important to consider options that could be a win-win for Iowa farmers, the state’s economy and our overall health.”