Sunday, February 6, 2011

2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Eat more plants!

Last Monday (Jan. 31, 2011), the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services announced the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (read 95-page document at After noting that the majority of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared that “this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore," and recommended improved nutrition and physical activity.

The updated Guidelines focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods, such as “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” (Updated every five years, the Guidelines also finally recognize vegetarian/vegan diets!) Yet, the Guidelines note in recent years, nearly 15% of American households have been unable to acquire adequate food to meet their needs. During last Monday’s media briefing, the following exchange took place:

QUESTION (Minnesota Public Radio): I notice that a lot of the foods you're talking about that we should eat are more expensive than other foods. What's happening to make sure that people, particularly in low-income areas, can afford these foods?
SECRETARY VILSACK: Well, first of all, I don't think it's necessarily always the case that foods that we are recommending are more expensive. I think that there are ways in which, at least at the USDA website, we are providing information to individuals how they can stretch their food dollar and still purchase nutritiously dense foods. The fact that we are focusing on fruits and vegetables, there are a variety of ways in which fruits and vegetables can be consumed and purchased that aren't necessarily always the most expensive option.

Secretary Vilsack goes on to suggest consuming beans, eliminating food deserts within seven years through First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, proposing a healthy financing food initiative for grocery stores in food desert areas, working with farmers markets to provide discount programs for those who are receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits, etc.

However, Secretary Vilsack doesn’t say anything about ending agricultural subsidies to corn, wheat, soybean and dairy, which make up most processed ("cheap") food as well as common food allergens. None of these foods are grown at The Free Farm, which focuses on nutrient-dense foods such as leafy greens, fava beans, strawberries, etc. With our new greenhouses and seed starts, we can potentially grow more plants so people can heed the latest dietary guidelines to eat more plants!

UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law is sponsoring the following forum, free to the public, to discuss reforming our food systems to support better nutrition for all:
Forum: Hungry for Justice? Growing an Equitable Food System
February 14 - 17, 2011, 12:45 - 2 p.m.
Boalt Hall, School of Law, Rm 110 and Rm 105
Sponsors: Students for Economic and Environmental Justice (SEEJ), Native American Law Students Association (NALSA)
Feb. 14 (Mon.): The Fight Against Hunger Through Progressive Food Stamp Policies
Feb. 15 (Tues.): Reclaiming the Global Food System
Feb. 16 (Wed.): Oakland Food Justice Struggles
Feb. 17 (Thurs.): Fair Labor and Food Security for California Farm Workers
Event Contact:, 408-621-3256
Details at
Bolted collard plants at The Free Farm

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