By Catherine Golden:
Three-quarters of the French population do not follow the official government guidelines of the PNNS, or Programme National Nutrition-Santé (National Nutrition and Health Programme), which recommends eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day . However, fruit and vegetables play a protective role in the prevention of diseases that appear in adulthood, like cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Indeed, good health does not solely depend on eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day―the nutritive qualities of this food are equally important.
In fact, to gain the maximum benefit from fruit and vegetables, they should be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting and be subjected to a minimum of post-harvesting processes, because their nutritional value―mainly their vitamin content—gradually diminishes, to varying degrees, depending on the conditions in which they are harvested, stored, and transported .
Consumer health can be augmented by the consumption of local fruit and vegetables, so local food systems and sales need to be developed. Local food systems operate through two distribution channels: direct producer–consumer sales and indirect sales via a single intermediary. This matches increasing demands by consumers for regional, seasonal, healthy, and high quality produce, which helps preserve the environment and restores the social bond between consumers and producers. While there are very real economic, societal, and environmental benefits in establishing local food systems, they are still struggling to have an impact in terms of market share (it is estimated that only 7% of fruit and vegetables is currently distributed through local food systems ) and these systems are facing and have to surmount many challenges relating to logistics, economics, marketing, the environment, and training.