September 28, 2005

USDA to unveil child-friendly food pyramid

By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A kids' food pyramid

featuring an Internet rocket game and school study guides

be unveiled by the U.S. Agriculture Department on Wednesday

help children make better eating choices.

The child-friendly version of the government's iconic Food

Guide Pyramid, the first one for kids since 1999, aims to

combat U.S. obesity by promoting more physical exercise and

better diets. About two-thirds of American adults and
almost 16

percent of children are overweight.

The old food pyramid is readily recognized by most

Americans from breakfast cereal boxes, lunchroom posters

nutrition articles.

"(This is) designed for children to make it easier to

access the nutrition and physical activity guidance," said

spokeswoman Jean Daniel. "We need to get information in the

hands of children and their teachers and their parents."

In April, USDA redesigned its well-known Food Guide

Pyramid. Unlike the old static, one-dimensional pyramid,

new version directed consumers to an Internet site to

among 12 pyramids that calculate daily diet needs based on

activity and gender.

The kids' food pyramid will be similar to the adult one

issued by the USDA earlier this year, but it will be more

interactive and graphically appealing to children. Study

also will be distributed to teachers to help promote the

pyramid in the classroom.

The child-friendly version will include a Web-based

spaceship game that aims to show children the correct
amount of

food consumption and physical activity they need.

"The game actually teaches children how to incorporate the

recommendations" from the food pyramid, said Daniel.

The USDA declined to release more details on the pyramid

until it was unveiled by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns

Wednesday at a Virginia elementary school.

Critics contend federal funding to promote nutrition among

kids would be better spent on a major mass media campaign.

"The USDA is trying to do nutrition education on the

cheap," said Michael Jacobson, executive director for the

Center for Science in the Public Interest, of the new kids'


"What's lacking is the political will. The administration

doesn't have the guts, and Congress wouldn't let it even if

did criticize foods like french fries and soda pop," he

The new food symbol released this year, MyPyramid, was the

first change to the controversial icon developed in 1992.

It was criticized by some nutrition experts for being too

general and failing to hold the industry more accountable

high-fat, high-calorie products and large portions of food.

new pyramid for adults also requires the use of a computer,

which many poor Americans lack.