The latest from first lady Michelle Obama’s cabinet, “MyPlate” (featured) that aims to replace the famous “food pyramid” (which was invented by Porter Novelli) and first introduced in 1992 by the USDA, has made numerous headlines today. The first lady persuaded the USDA to replace the iconic pyramid originally drafted by Francesca Morris, and published by the FDB in Denmark in 1978, with a more cryptic symbol, a “plate” that supposedly is “an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits.”
Looking at the graphic featured here, the “plate” is pretty straightforward, although it doesn’t say much about quantities. But the old food pyramid was not much better, according to some nutritionists, who considered it too confusing. The old pyramid did not distinguish between healthy foods like whole grains and fish and less healthy choices like white bread and bacon. “Michelle O’s Hierarchy of Feeds”, as the dinner plate is also called in some circles, doesn’t do it either, but at least is half full of fruit and veg:
“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,” said First Lady Michelle Obama in the official press statement. “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.”
But the most puzzling issue about MyPlate is the marketing costs of the new campaign: the USDA had spent about $2 million to develop and promote the logo. The sum also includes creating a website, and also a budget to promote the campaign in the first year. The sum is puzzling, considering how outdated, and deeply ugly, the website currently looks like. Even as a simple source of information, the website doesn’t justify the cost. But later this year the USDA will unveil an online tool that consumers can use to personalize and manage their dietary and physical activity choices. There will probably be other activities, and promotions, via social media, and other online networking channels, but these still don’t justify a whole $2 million USD.
If the new initiative excites you, USDA wants to see how you are putting MyPlate in to action: so take a photo of your plate and share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. USDA also wants to see where and when you think about healthy eating. Share your MyPlate photograph with the USDA Flickr Photo Group, where currently you can only see a blank page, part of a $2 million USD campaign.