October 07, 2005

USDA Food and Nutrition Bulletins

Your government is an often-overlooked source of information on the subject of food, cooking and nutrition. The USDA and its agencies have been publishing food-related resource material for almost one hundred years.

The USDA booklets didn't promote a particular brand name or product. They provided valuable, unbiased information in a generic manner. (In a society now over-saturated with advertising, how refreshing is that?)

In the past, paper recipe booklets, informational pamphlets and leaflets were the methods the USDA used to get the information out to those interested. This material was usually free of charge and not very fancy.

The topics of the earlier booklets, called Farmer's Bulletins, reflected the fact that most families ate and prepared food that was grown and processed at home on the farm.

Then came the Home and Garden Bulletins, and as food processing shifted from the farm to the factory, the booklets reflected the trend towards more people eating commercially processed foods. New topics were added, such as "How to Buy" and "How to Serve" thrifty, nutritious and economical foods.

The shift to processed food has taken its toll. America is fat and out of shape. Today, the main topics of the newer publications seem to focus on food handling and safety, food labeling, nutritional values and knowledge, and dietary guidelines.

And just as the focus of the subject matter has shifted, so has the medium in which the information is conveyed. Gone are the plain, inexpensive booklets, replaced by shiny, glossy covers and a higher price tag. If it's free, it's because you printed it out on your computer at home.

Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but somehow a home-printed PDF file doesn't have the charm of an old booklet, even if the information it contains is useful.

Check out the lists of past USDA publications related to food and nutrition.


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