USDA expands on nutrition goals

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Usda Nutrition

The US government is to invest in improving the nation's nutrition
and conducting obesity studies, according to Agriculture Secretary
Mike Johanns, who this week expanded on the Administration's farm
bill nutrition proposals.

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) nutrition proposals are an area of farm policy that constitutes the largest part of the agency's budget. Johanns said USDA plans to spend $467m more on these projects than its current program. An additional $2.75bn would be spent on the purchase of fruits and vegetables to improve nutrition in USDA food and nutrition programs. USDA first revealed its farm bill proposal in February. It represents the final phase of a two-year process, during which over 50 forums were conducted across the country, and 4,000 comments were recorded. Regulated by the USDA and renewed every five to six years, farm bills are a collection of laws that set the overall direction of the nation's agriculture. The legislation set out in a farm bill aims to provide a safe and affordable supply of food through programs that promote US agriculture. The bills typically contain provisions for commodity prices, agricultural trade and crop insurance, amongst others. "We drew up our nutrition proposals with three primary goals in mind - based on the feedback we received during our Farm Bill Forums,"​ said Johanns in a statement on Monday. "We recommend increasing program access for the working poor and elderly, moving America toward healthier eating habits, and making more effective use of taxpayer dollars. We will make certain our eligibility rules support both work and education wherever that is possible,"​ he said. "We also want to improve our administration of the Food Stamp Program, strengthen its integrity, and finally rename it to reflect the changes that time and technology have brought since its inception in 1964."​ Johanns said the agency suggests changing the name to Food and Nutrition Program. It aims to strengthen efforts to integrate nutrition education into the food stamp program by recognizing that nutrition education is a component of the program. It also aims to invest $100m to establish a five-year competitive grants demonstration program targeted at developing and testing solutions to the rising rates of obesity. Other measures expanded on this week involve the government's efforts to promote healthy diets. USDA said it would support school initiatives to provide meals based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It plans to invest $6m in mandatory funding to conduct a survey of foods purchased by school food authorities with federal cash assistance once every 5 years. The new farm bill also proposes to provide new mandatory funding for the purchase of additional fruits and vegetables for use in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. This $500m of funding over 10 years represents a net increase in the total purchase of fruits and vegetables for school meals over levels available under any other authorities, said USDA. Johanns also said the agency plans to increase Section 32 spending on fruits and vegetables by $2.75bn over 10 years. This additional funding is expected to potentially benefit all recipients of USDA's food and nutrition programs. Initial industry reactions have called the new proposals "a step in the right direction".​ To access the proposals, click here​.

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