U.S.D.A. launches nutritional web tools

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Sept. 23 announced the launch of three new on-line tools that are expected to help consumers make healthier food choices while gaining a better appreciation of the role of American agriculture in food production.

"Because more than 80% of our population lives in suburban and metropolitan areas, when we think of food, we more often think of the grocery store than the farm," Mr. Vilsack said. "There is a disconnect between the farmer and the food that consumers buy and we want to re-connect these long standing ties between the people who produce the food and those who purchase and prepare it. These new on-line tools will help do that."

The three tools — developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion — are part of the U.S.D.A.’s broader "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative that Mr. Vilsack launched on Sept. 15. The program’s goal is to begin a national conversation about food and to help connect people more closely with the farmers who supply their food and increase the production, marketing and consumption of fresh, nutritious food that is grown locally in a sustainable manner.

The first tool, "Growing a Healthier You: Nutrition From the Farm to the Table," is seen as a companion guide to the U.S.D.A.’s MyPyramid food guidance system and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new web page, located at www.cnpp.usda.gov/KnowYourFarmer.htm, links garden and farm produce to the nutritional well-being of the public and the significance of locally grown fruits and vegetables. The web site will promote national initiatives, such as National Nutrition Month and feature facts about specific fruits, vegetables and other foods. It also will feature "What’s for Dinner (or Breakfast or Lunch);" "Your Garden, Your Produce, Your Menus;" "and From Garden to Plate, Safety Matters."

The second tool, available at www.MyFoodapedia.gov, provides consumers with quick access to nutrition information for more than 1,000 foods. The MyFood-a-pedia tool provides calorie count information on the contribution of the food to the five food groups people need to be healthy.

The third tool in the initiative is "10 Tips Series." The tool will be updated regularly at www.MyPyramid.gov and currently features tips on cutting back on salt and sodium, followed by tips for setting good examples to be a healthy role model for children, tips for following a vegetarian diet, and tips for making more environmentally friendly food choices.

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