The one-year anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate food icon has some convinced the image will be around for many years to come.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined educators, and students May 30 to spotlight the first anniversary of MyPlate.

The MyPlate icon is a big part of education efforts in school cafeterias, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokeswoman for the National Harbor, Md.-based School Nutrition Association. The group offers a variety of posters and other tools that schools can use to promote MyPlate.

“It is simple to show kids how much fruits and vegetables should be on their plate everyday,” she said. “What is really great is that it is so applicable to the school meal patterns.”

Elizabeth Pivonka, president and chief executive officer of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation, said most nutrition professionals are pleased with MyPlate compared with MyPyramid.

“The nice thing about it is that they have core messages they are promoting and the first one they promoted is ‘Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,’” she said. “I think they are going to keep this (food icon) for a while.”

Beyond the “half a plate” message, unveiled last fall, other MyPlate themes include “Enjoy your food but eat less,” “drink water instead of sugary drinks” and “make half your grains whole grains.” Future messages ask consumers to avoid oversize portions and limit sodium, Pivonka said.

Pivonka said that in 2011, there were 2.6 billion consumer impressions for “make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” representing more than 1,500 media outlets running stories about the message. Pivonka said PBH has used the MyPlate icon in several ways, from putting the image into the consumer education catalog to developing 30 “real food” plates on its website. More than 800 people participated in last’s year MyPlate Makeover Challenge on the PBH website, she said.

She said other groups that have conducted MyPlate promotions include Stemilt Growers, the California Avocado Commission, the Mushroom Council, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Chiquita, Del Monte Foods and others.

MyPlate Success

The USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion estimates 90% of nutrition professionals are familiar with MyPlate and are using resources to support MyPlate in client counseling, according to the release.

More than 6,000 Community Partners and 90 National Strategic Partners have committed to promote the recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the release.

MyPlate was developed as a result of a 2010 report of the White House Childhood Obesity Task Force, which challenged the USDA to use a new symbol that would be simpler and more direct than the Food Pyramid, according to the release.

In June, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion plans to highlight the anniversary with blog postings on its website, daily Tweets on healthy eating and online resources for children.