Q: What is the USDA’s new nutrition resource all about?

A: Too bad Americans aren’t able to trim surplus pounds as effortlessly as Washington dips into the surplus dollars taxpayers are sending to the federal Treasury. It’s a well-known fact that obesity is on the rise in the United States. As much as half of the U.S. adult population is overweight and obesity among children has doubled in the last two decades. As a result, dieting is part of our couch-potato culture and the diet industry is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry. The latest fad diet plan circulates among the general population like wildfire via word of mouth, books, the Internet or chat shows on television. Last year, the USDA organized a coordinated effort to analyze the safety and success of popular weight-loss regimes. As drive-thru fast food joints sprout up on every street corner and the family dinner hour falls victim to hectic weeknight work and school schedules, the nutritional health and well-being of average Americans in the 21st century is a legitimate public policy concern. That’s because physical ailments and life-threatening diseases can be linked to how much and what kinds of food you put in your mouth. The USDA food pyramid for years has served as a widely-recognized guideline for Americans to check off their daily intake from the basic food groups. Now the Department of Agriculture has created an on-line clearinghouse for consumers to check out how to eat more nutritiously and lead healthier lifestyles.

Q: How can Iowans access the information?

A:. The USDA launched a new web site in January devoted to nutrition, healthy eating habits, research and physical fitness. Go to http://www.nutrition.gov to find information on the food guide pyramid, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietary supplements, food labeling, health management, food safety and healthy recipes. Some Americans may not realize the USDA runs the national food assistance programs in the country and spends about $35 billion every year on nutrition programs, like school lunches and food stamps. Users can find out more about these nutrition and food assistance programs including the Food Stamp Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the School Lunch and Breakfast programs. The user-friendly information also feature a life cycles section to help Americans assess their own nutritional needs based on their individual circumstances.