While those in food and agriculture eagerly awaited the newly released 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the guidelines should not be viewed as an end to a process, but rather the beginning of new opportunities. Using the guidelines as a foundation, those of us in food, agriculture and health can help people make healthier food and beverage choices by supporting nutrition education and programs that increase access to healthy foods.

To do this, all of us should look beyond the guidelines’ implications on the foods and commodities we produce or promote and instead focus on a shared goal of improving health. In fact, the guidelines encourage people of all ages to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, which are the foundation to building a healthy dietary pattern. With so many Americans consuming low-quality diets, there is opportunity for everyone to work together to promote healthy eating across the life span.

The guidelines also emphasize that while people ultimately decide what and how much to consume, other factors strongly influence their food choices. These factors include people’s relationships; the settings in which they live, learn, work, play and gather; and the ability to consistently access healthy and affordable foods. With so many factors to consider, improving the health of Americans will require multisector collaboration to ensure children, families and individuals are supported to lead healthy, active lives.

At Dairy Council of California, we believe that access to healthy foods and nutrition education is critical at all life stages, and that early childhood provides an opportunity to establish healthy dietary patterns that support growth and development in the short and long term. For that reason, we launched Let’s Eat Healthy, a movement to elevate the health of children and families through the pursuit of lifelong healthy eating habits.

Through multisector coordination, collaboration and co-creation, Let’s Eat Healthy aims to empower stakeholders to champion community health through nutrition education and finding ways to make nutritious foods accessible and affordable to all. We invite you to join the movement at HealthyEating.org/Join.

As the pandemic continues, supporting nutrition education and food access programs remains critically important as families face added challenges. With many schools across the country still providing instruction through distance and hybrid learning models, Dairy Council of California innovated to support distance learning by creating a robust portfolio of online resources, including virtual farm tours that teach agriculture literacy and how to make healthy food choices.

Accessing healthy food is also an ongoing challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic for many families. Fortunately, the situation has prompted members of agriculture and food systems to work together in new ways to get food supplies redirected to the people and places where they are needed most, such as schools and food banks. We are proud to see the multisector collaboration taking place, helping millions of families across the country access healthy food.

With the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans now in place, the agricultural community has an opportunity to support people not only by producing healthy foods, but also by advocating for nutrition education that teaches healthy eating and by supporting vital food access programs that nourish children and families. With ongoing pandemic-related challenges, this support has never been more important and will elevate the health of children and families for years to come.

Tammy Anderson-Wise serves as CEO of Dairy Council of California.

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