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'My Idaho' food plate guide encourages eating local


By SEAN ELLIS



Capital Press






BOISE, Idaho -- Using the USDA's dietary guidelines, Idaho has created a visual nutrition guide that shows people how they can eat healthy and local at the same time.



My Idaho Plate is an adaptation of the USDA's colorful My Plate, which was unveiled last year and replaced the government's 19-year-old food pyramid.



The message of the Idaho plate is simple but clear, said Leah Clark, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's Idaho Preferred program: "You need to eat based on USDA recommendations, but in Idaho you can eat Idaho food and still follow the recommendations of the plate."



The USDA's My Plate is split into four different sections, with red standing for fruits, green for vegetables, purple for protein, and orange for grains. A separate blue plate represents daily dairy needs.



But where the portions on USDA's plate are blank, the My Idaho Plate actually has depictions of food and beverages grown by the state's farmers and ranchers.



"We took that (USDA) plate, which is blank, and inserted representations of Idaho foods that fit into each section," Clark said. "You won't see oranges, bananas and kiwis on the My Idaho Plate. You will see apples, peaches, tables grapes and all those other ... fruits grown in Idaho."



The My Idaho Plate was developed by the Idaho departments of education and agriculture and is being used by Idaho teachers to show children they can eat locally and still meet the USDA's recommended nutrition guidelines, Heidi Martin, coordinator of the Idaho Department of Education's Child Nutrition Program, said.



"As a dietitian, I can go to schools and teach students that they can eat healthy by eating local and fulfill all of those recommendations that the USDA makes for a balanced, healthy meal," she said.



The plate is available in tear sheets that have information about the wide variety of agricultural commodities grown in the Gem State on the back.



Idaho produces 184 agricultural commodities and Idahoans who want to eat locally and follow the USDA guidelines should have a fairly easy time doing so, Clark said.



While Idaho produces more potatoes and trout than any other state, it's also the country's No. 3 dairy state, ranks high in grain, beef and sheep production, is near the top in dry bean, pea and lentil production, and produces 38 different fruits and vegetables.



"Idaho very easily fills the plate, where other states have a little more difficult time," Clark said. "We really have a wide enough variety of products in Idaho that people should have a very easy time choosing products grown in the state."



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