ORLANDO, Fla. (USDA) — Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today joined local officials, parents, children and partners to celebrate the first anniversary of the MyPlate food icon and to highlight MiPlato, USDA's Spanish-language food icon for MyPlate. Merrigan visited Orlando's Caribbean Supercenter, a family-owned business committed to community involvement, to announce a MyPlate Community Partnership with the store. In just its first year, MyPlate has struck more than 6,000 such partnerships with small businesses and community organizations to help reach consumers with information on meaningful, sustainable, healthy dietary changes based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In June 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled MyPlate, the federal government's primary food group symbol, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthy food choices. MyPlate is a new generation icon with the intent to prompt consumers to think about building a healthy plate at meal times and to seek more information to help them do that by going to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov. MyPlate's simple recommendations—like 'Make half your plate fruits and vegetables'—is resonating. Since it was released, there have been over 7 million downloads of MyPlate graphics and other materials.
"Whether you want to use MyPlate or MiPlato, the message is consistent: a healthy nation starts with healthy people," said Merrigan. "Today in Orlando, we celebrate the great strides we are making from our schools and supermarkets to the dinner table as Americans embrace MyPlate and find practical ways to apply it to their daily lives. This is also a day to celebrate USDA's partnerships with independent, small- and family-owned businesses across the America—businesses that are the backbone of our economy, creating two out of every three new jobs in America. Together, we are working to expand access to healthy food."
The Dairy Council of Florida also joined the celebration, along with Fuel Up to Play 60's Florida State Representative Bobby Sena and Fuel Up to Play 60 representative and Orlando Predators star, Chris Leak. The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich dense foods (low-fat and fat-free milk and milk products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Currently, the Dairy Council of Florida supports more than 3,100 Florida schools that are actively involved in the program.
USDA estimates that about 90 percent of nutrition professionals are familiar with MyPlate, using the icon's resources and messages in client counseling. USDA has distributed MyPlate educational tools to schools, churches, youth groups, gyms and fitness centers, clubs, and other organizations. Currently, over 6,000 Community Partners have joined along with 90 National Strategic Partners, all committed to promoting the recommendations found in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In the first quarter of this year, there were 34 million page views at the ChooseMyPlate.gov website and over 700,000 registered users of the MyPlate SuperTracker, the web based tool to gauge one's diet and physical activity.
Development of MyPlate came as a result of a 2010 report of the White House Childhood Obesity Task Force. The report challenged USDA to design a new generation symbol as a cue to inspire consumers to choose healthier foods at mealtimes – something simpler and more direct than the Food Pyramid.
The MyPlate icon shows a plate with the five food groups on a placemat that is suggestive of proportions; i.e., to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Integral to its design is the incorporation of the ChooseMyPlate.gov website address where consumers can apply the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in a personal way. The ChooseMyPlate website provides the public, particularly school children, with the practical 'how-tos' to put the Guidelines recommendations of getting more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods into action in their own lives.
During the month of June, USDA is celebrating the first anniversary of MyPlate with special blog posts on its website, daily Tweets on healthy eating, recipes, partner images, a resource for having healthy celebrations, and MyPlate Happy Birthday coloring pages for kids. In addition, the quarterly MyPlate message for May through June will be "Drink Water Instead of Sugary Drinks," to highlight that thirst quenching water can be "dressed up" with a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange as a great way to round out a healthy plate.
USDA has been in the food guidance business for well over 100 years dating back to 1894 with the publication of food buying guides and graphic images representing the Basic Seven in the 1940s, the Basic Four during the 1950s through the '70s, the Food Guide Pyramid in the 1980s and 1990s, and MyPyramid in 2005. However, never, until the launch of MyPlate in June 2011, has USDA taken a more pro-active, comprehensive approach to reaching all consumers—kids, parents, and educators—with practical ways to apply the Dietary Guidelines wherever they learn, play, shop and prepare foods. Public acceptance over the last 12 months of the MyPlate food icon suggests that USDA's new vision for healthy eating will be a popular and useful image for years to come.