Leah McGrath, a corporate dietitian for Asheville, N.C.-based Ingles Markets Inc., said she uses social media, including Facebook and Twitter, extensively to interact with consumers about produce and nutrition. She also does a weekly radio program, appears regularly on local TV. and works with local growers on in-store promotions.
McGrath said she didn’t realize all of the behind-the-scenes work that went into producing high-quality fresh vegetables and vegetable seeds, and that was something she wanted to convey to her followers.
“I really think all of the different varieties are fascinating,” she said. “We talk about tomatoes, but there are all of these functional components of tomatoes. This is a very different growing climate than what we have in North Carolina. This is a dry climate, and it’s really interesting to see what the crop looks like compared to what we see when I visit farmers in North Carolina.”
Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, owner of hispanic food communications inc., Chicago, tweeted a picture of a hybrid tomato based on an heirloom variety, saying, “Tie dye tomatoes — yummy!!”
Melendez-Klinger said many consumers are far removed from cooking at home and don’t know the nutritional components of what they consume.
“The more food groups you have on the plate, the better,” she said. “The more colors is even easier. That’s what I tell children. And then you don’t have worry about vitamins C, A, D or whatever, either.”
Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center Center for Sports Medicine and Nutrition, works frequently with student athletes. She said she believed the current recommendations of consuming five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables daily may be too daunting for most consumers.
“The food phobia people have about produce isn’t getting people healthy,” she said. “It’s driving people toward more processed food.”
As dietitians, they advocate variety in a diet. Having more varieties of fruits and vegetables available to consumers that actually taste good could help reverse the trend of less per-capita produce consumption, Bonci said.