SIOUX FALLS, SD -
People often think fresh and healthy foods are too expensive and the USDA is trying to change that perception and eating habits in our homes and schools.
South Dakota's latest Youth Risk Behavior Report shows just 15 percent of high school kids ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables during one week. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in Sioux Falls on Thursday to dish on how officials want to fix that.
"Retired admirals and generals will tell you they're concerned about the state of all our volunteer military because there are too few young people fit for military service," Vilsack said.
One-third of America's children are obese or at risk of being obese. It is costing our country more than $500 billion. The USDA has backed a pilot program that puts more fresh fruits and vegetables in 7,100 of the nation's poorest schools.
"It's designed to debunk the myth that kids won't choose fruits and vegetables," Vilsack said.
Vilsack shared the results of the study that gives kids easy access to fruits and vegetables. He said, when given the choice, 97 percent of kids tried fruits; 84 percent tried vegetables. 84 percent at least taste the vegetables and 61 percent of those ate them all.
Vilsack spoke at the Hy-Vee on Sycamore Avenue in Sioux Falls. The USDA has worked with Hy-Vee over the years to re-focus customers' attention toward better nutrition. Vilsack praised the store for having registered dieticians in-house, like Janine Albers.
"If we expect our children to consume fruits and vegetables, we need to first do it to be that model for them," Albers said.
"You come into a grocery store that has over 50,000 different products and you ask yourself, 'where do I go to get what I need for my specific condition?' Hy-Vee has an answer because they have dieticians, literally on staff that will take you around the store," Vilsack said.
Vilsack promised more money for better, nutritious school lunches. He also talked about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which would give states more options on how to spend food stamp money, and helps provide education for more healthy food options in the state.
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