The announcement of a video contest aimed at making Americans more aware of the MyPlate campaign shared top billing with President Barack Obama’s jobs bill during a California visit.
The president tapped Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to campaign in California for the nearly $500 billion American Jobs Act, and Vilsack addressed business leaders Sept. 26 at the Port of West Sacramento to promote the president’s plan.
“It is the first of seven dietary themed guideline messages we’ll introduce in the next 12 months or so,” he said.
Later at a news conference, Vilsack joined Jin Ju Wilder, a member of the Produce Marketing Association’s board of directors and owner of Status Gro, a South Pasadena-based consulting firm, and other California fresh produce and nutrition leaders to encourage Americans to “Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables.”
PMA and grower-shippers hope that the momentum of the MyPlate message carries through to the upcoming 2012 farm bill discussions, Wilder said.
“The current farm bill was encouraging in that for the first time funding was allocated for concerns and issues specific to specialty crops,” she said.
In addition to its role as a national strategic partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the MyPlate campaign, PMA is a member of the Washington, D.C.-based Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.
“One of the group’s priorities is to ensure that specialty crops remain a priority in future farm bills,” Wilder said.
An element of the campaign unveiled by Vilsack is the MyPlate Fruits and Veggies Challenge video contest.
The USDA-sponsored contest urges the public to submit “inspiring and instructive videos that provide innovative, easy and practical tips on how to ‘Make Half Your Plate Fruit and Vegetables’ through Nov. 15,” Vilsack said.
There are three contest categories: Tips for Kids, Tips When Eating at Home, and Tips When Eating Away from Home, he said.
First place in each category is $1,500, second place is $1,000, and there will be $500 winners in each category for popular choices entries, Vilsack said.
Entries should be submitted to www.fruitsandveggies.challenge.gov. Winners will be announced Dec. 14.
Vilsack also said that more than 4,000 organizations have joined the MyPlate Nutrition Communicators Network, more than double the number of partners MyPlate had in July. The group includes hospitals, churches, retailers, restaurants, nutrition educators, and even appliance manufacturers, he said.
“The support for the campaign shows the importance of our industry to the American diet,” said Wilder, who is on the USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.
The public is quickly embracing the MyPlate icon, Vilsack said.
“It’s simple, it’s easy to understand and it’s not as complicated as the Pyramid,” he said.
The MyPlate campaign also is an advantage to Americans in tough economic times.
“A recent study by the (USDA’s) Economic Research Service found an adult on a 2,000-calorie per day diet could satisfy recommendations for vegetable and fruit consumption for just $2 to $2.50,” Vilsack said.
Under the department’s low-cost food plan, a family can eat a healthier diet, including more vegetables and fruits, at less than what they are now spending on food, he said.
“In the long run, your health is going to be better, your health care costs are going to be less and you’re going to get to know that there are some extraordinary delectable things that you can do with fruits and vegetables,” Vilsack said.