Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced the launch of three new online tools that are expected to help consumers make healthier food choices while gaining a better appreciation of the role of American agriculture in food production.

"Because more than 80% of our population lives in suburban and metropolitan areas, when we think of food, we more often think of the grocery store than the farm," says Vilsack. "There is a disconnect between the farmer and the food that consumers buy and we want to re-connect these long-standing ties between the people who produce the food and those who purchase and prepare it. These new online tools will help do that."

Developed by USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the rules are part of the USDA’s broader Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative that Vilsack launched on Sept. 15. The program’s goal is to begin a national conversation about food and to help connect people more closely with the farmers who supply their food and increase the production, marketing and consumption of fresh, nutritious food that is grown locally in a sustainable manner.

The first tool, Growing a Healthier You: Nutrition From the Farm to the Table, is seen as a companion guide to the USDA’s MyPyramid food guidance system and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new Web page links garden and farm produce to the nutritional well-being of the public and the significance of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The second tool provides consumers with quick access to nutrition information for more than 1,000 foods. The MyFood-a-pedia tool provides calorie count information on the contribution of the food to the five food groups people need to be healthy.

The third tool in the initiative is 10 Tips Series. The tool will be updated regularly and currently features tips on cutting back on salt and sodium, followed by tips for setting good examples to be a healthy role model for children.