USDA Serves a Dinner Plate for Healthy Eating

Thursday, June 2, 2011

America is about to ditch the food pyramid. In its place, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will serve a plate-shaped symbol sliced into basic food groups. Beside the plate will rest a small cup of dairy (milk or yogurt). What this means for the kid on the playground, or the mom running in eight different directions, is that each will now have an easier guideline to follow for healthy eating.

“The new plate image was constructed in an effort to simplify daily nutrition with a graphic approach,” explains food marketing expert Nancy Childs, Ph.D., who participated in the White House committee contributing to the development of the new symbol.

“What we learned from the food pyramid is that while nutritional information was being shared with consumers, they weren’t paying attention. This time around, the committee explored new and simpler ways of communicating with people to get them to listen.”

The new approach is a $2 million media campaign which includes viral marketing, social media, and influencer position statements among other advertisements. This campaign, compared to communication around the food pyramid, has another secret weapon — First Lady Michelle Obama. The new symbol is expected to have a prominent role in the first lady’s crusade against obesity.

Childs, a professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, is eager to witness the response from not only consumers, but also the food industry. During a time when analysts are speculating sharp increases in food prices, Childs says the industry’s challenge will be to keep food costs affordable and nutritionally relevant. “The new guideline provides room for a win-win with healthier portion sizes for consumers,” she says.

Media Contact

Childs is available for comment at or 609-790-3510. She can also be reached through Saint Joseph’s University Communications at 610-660-1355.

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