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‘Eat a Whole Lot More Plants’ Campaign Encourages New Yorkers to Put Vegetables at the Center of Their Plates

Published: May 30, 2023
Vegetables are seen on display at Ideal Fresh Market on Church Ave on June 10, 2022 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. (Image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

On May 30, Vision Times had the opportunity to sit down with Kim Kessler, the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to discuss the City’s recently launched “Eat a Whole Lot More Plants” campaign.

The campaign urges New Yorkers to put plants on their plates and to adopt a healthy, balanced diet full of whole foods to address a variety of challenges facing the city’s residents including chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes.

Citing a recent survey, Kessler said that only seven percent of New Yorkers are eating the recommended five servings of vegetables or fruits per day, and that the City aims to change that by implementing a targeted marketing campaign.

“Generally, the overall goal of the campaign is just for New Yorkers to know and to be aware; to help New Yorkers with accessing food resources,” she said, adding that, “Because the city does have many resources to help New Yorkers in need be able to access and afford healthy food.”

She explained that the “Health Bucks” program — which provides two-dollar coupons for purchasing fresh produce from any of New York City’s farmer’s markets — is not going anywhere, is still active and remains an “important element of our overall healthy food strategy.”


Specific communities prioritized

While the campaign is intended to educate and inspire all New Yorkers, Kessler said the current media campaign “is specifically prioritizing communities that New York City’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity (TRIE) has focused on since the task force was launched in 2020.”

Priority is being given to neighborhoods that were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and communities that have a high percentage of other health and socioeconomic inequalities. 

“That means the taskforce identified 33 neighborhoods across all five boroughs,” she said, adding that “we know that there are neighborhoods — due to disinvestment in communities — where there are real differences in healthy, promoted resources, and so we do take that into account in planning any program or campaign.”

Part of the campaign is to provide New Yorkers with resources to inspire healthy eating, including recipes representing different kinds of cuisines that New Yorkers eat.

Kessler is excited about the campaign, telling Vision Times, “The most exciting and encouraging part about this campaign is that it really is such a positive campaign. It brings home this whole message about eating plants being good for your health,” adding that she “loves” that it is so encouraging and that it gives the City the chance to further support New Yorkers.


A focus on whole and minimally processed foods

She said that the campaign is focused on plant foods in general, anything whole or minimally processed.

“Any whole or minimally processed plant foods … that includes a wide range of foods that fit within many different kinds of cultural diets and personal preferences … like whole grains, like brown rice, oats, barley, that are all good sources of fiber.”

“There are a wide variety of vegetables or fruits as well as beans, nuts and seeds all being examples of those plant foods that are part of [a] healthy diet,” she explained.

Kessler encourages all New Yorkers to familiarize themselves with the resources the City has made available to them, including recipes and learning about where they can access healthier and affordable foods.

Ultimately, Kessler hopes that New Yorkers will get the message that plant foods are good for their health and that whole, minimally processed and nutrient-dense choices that provide high amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber “without coming with the added sugar, salt, and saturated fat,” are a great choice for New Yorkers.

With reporting by Laura Hatton.