Fruit and Vegetables for Sustainable Healthy Diets (FRESH)


Poor diets are a primary cause of malnutrition and the leading cause of diseases worldwide. Improving diets, including increasing fruit and vegetable intake, could save one in five lives lost annually. Micronutrients and dietary fiber are essential for health; micronutrients obtained from fruit and vegetables have a lower environmental footprint than from other foods, making fruit and vegetables essential to healthy and sustainable diets. Globally, fruit and vegetable intake is far below recommended levels, however, the extent and nature of the problem is poorly understood due to insufficient dietary data, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake will require starting with consumers, understanding dietary patterns, and addressing desirability, accessibility, affordability, and availability barriers through cost-effective solutions. Solutions must take a holistic end-to-end approach that starts from intake and works back through the food system to improve accessibility of fruits and vegetables and increase year-round supply of a diverse range of safe, affordable, nutrient-dense vegetables.


This initiative aims to use an end-to-end approach to increase fruit and vegetable intake, improve diet quality, nutrition and health while also improving livelihoods, empowering women and youth and mitigating negative environmental impacts.

This will be achieved through:

  • Understanding and influencing consumer behavior.
  • Exploring vegetable biodiversity, genetic innovation, and seed systems.
  • Working to expand safe and sustainable production.
  • Supporting postharvest efforts and ensuring inclusive markets.
  • Developing and influencing food environments.
  • Strengthening the enabling environment.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Key actors from government, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and academia in the four focus countries are actively engaged in designing and testing behavioral interventions targeted at women or youth to increase fruit and vegetable intake.
  2. 10,000 farmers (at least 5,000 of whom are women) adopt vegetable cultivars and/or safe and sustainable vegetable production practices across four focus countries.
  3. Private sector partners actively engaged in co-designing and piloting innovations are ready to scale at least four innovations to reduce post-harvest losses and/or improve food safety.
  4. Key actors from government, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and academia in three of the focus countries are actively engaged in designing and testing interventions to increase the accessibility and affordability of fruit and vegetables especially for poor and otherwise marginalized populations.
  5. 5. Key actors and policy makers at national level (e.g. agriculture, finance or health ministers) prioritize fruit and vegetables and incorporate specific actions aimed at increasing intake, production, food safety and/or equity within the fruit and vegetable sector into national-level policies, laws or regulations.



To improve nutrition and health, this Initiative will use a holistic end-to-end approach to address desirability, accessibility, affordability, and availability constraints to fruit- and vegetable-rich diets. Addressing these issues and identifying cost-effective and scalable solutions will increase the number of people meeting minimum micronutrient requirements and reduce the number of people with noncommunicable diseases.


Fruit and vegetables are high-value crops with tremendous potential to create income and jobs across the value chain, from smallholder farmers to market sellers and food vendors. This Initiative will focus on creating the incentive mechanisms and technical and institutional innovations to stimulate year-round production and trade in safe, diverse and high quality fruits and vegetables with minimal losses.


Poor diets, malnutrition, and poverty are linked with socio-demographic inequities, including gender, age, and ethnicity. This Initiative will identify and address factors impeding or enabling women and youth from participating in, and benefitting from, fruit and vegetable value chains, and political economy and equity dimensions enabling and disabling options for food environment interventions.


Vegetables are sensitive to environmental extremes, a situation exacerbated by a changing climate. Through this Initiative, biodiversity required for climate change adaptation will be safeguarded and more climate-resilient vegetable cultivars and production packages delivered. Regenerative agricultural practices that reduce external input use and improve system performance will be developed and tested, as will interventions in fruit and vegetable value chains that improve efficiency and reduce losses.


The expansive and largely untapped diversity of traditional and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables is threatened as production systems change toward a narrower range of globally important species. This Initiative will identify and test options to stimulate consumer demand for a more biodiverse range of fruit and vegetables, including traditional varieties. It will identify good production practices that enhance rather than deplete ecosystems.


Header photo: Weekly market, Texcoco, Mexico. Photo by Ravi Gopal Singh/CIMMYT.