02 June 2011

USDA’s new food plate contradicts federal subsidies

The USDA’s new food plate icon features vegetables, grains and fruits with a little nod to protein—note protein not meat—and the obligatory little shout out to dairy. Makes sense especially to those of us who have adopted a plant-based diet.

On the ChooseMyPlate.gov website the following advice is provided:

Foods to increase:
● Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
● Make at least half your grains whole grains.
● Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Okay forget that last one but you get the point.

Even First Lady Michelle Obama agrees:

This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating and as a mom, I can already tell how much this is going to help parents across the country. When mom or dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew. So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins,whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.

So logic would follow that more federal money would go to producers of fruits and vegetables than those who produce dairy and meat. Wrong! Remember we are talking government spending which usually means logic is checked at the door.

More than 60% of federal subsidies go to the meat and dairy industries while a smidgeon of government money, according to PCRM less than 1%, goes to fruit and vegetables. Say what?

“The USDA's new plate icon couldn't be more at odds with federal food subsidies,” said PCRM staff nutritionist Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “The plate icon advises Americans to limit high-fat products like meat and cheese, but the federal government is subsidizing these very products with billions of tax dollars and giving almost no support to fruits and vegetables. Congress has to reform the Farm Bill to support healthy diets.”

Hey we know we are preaching to the choir, but check out PCRM’s Power Plate “which is a simple, colorful graphic depicting a plate divided into four food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.”

If enough of us demand plant-based fare eventually the federal spending will follow...hopefully.

Eric Fortney | @elfortney | email
Eric is the co-founder and executive editor of the animal rights and eco-friendly news source, This Dish Is Veg. In addition to his work at TDIV, Eric is a father of three, runner, and lover of the outdoors.

Photo credits: USDA and PCRM