An official website of the United States government.

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites always use a .gov or .mil domain. Before sharing sensitive information online, make sure you’re on a .gov or .mil site by inspecting your browser’s address (or “location”) bar.

This site is also protected by an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate that’s been signed by the U.S. government. The https:// means all transmitted data is encrypted — in other words, any information or browsing history that you provide is transmitted securely.

Home / Human Nutrition Information Service

Human Nutrition Information Service

Proposed dietary guidance graphics, 1992.


The USDA Human Nutrition Information Service (HNIS) Records consist of historical information on food and nutrition research and information development in the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1922 to 1994. The collection includes reports, articles, memoranda, and charts about the history and organization of HNIS, highlights of its accomplishments, nutrition research activities, and publications. There are brochures and leaflets on nutrition guidelines and healthful eating. The collection also includes correspondence, recipes, food guide information, surveys, and speeches. Gerald Smith of the USDA Agricultural Research Service donated these materials after the HNIS was abolished in 1994.

The collection occupies 2.5 linear feet and occupies five document boxes. The materials are in poor to good condition. Access is restricted to one folder of material due to the presence of personally identifiable information of former employees. There are no restrictions on using the rest of the materials for research; however, some materials are fragile and may require staff assistance to view them.

The collection was described by Sara Lee, Special Collections archivist, and was later arranged and inventoried by Valerie Linsinbigler, Special Collections intern, in 2018.

Historical Sketch

The Human Nutrition Information Service (HNIS) offered dietary guidance and support services to the Food and Nutrition Service (later named the Food and Consumer Service) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from November 1981 through February 1994. HNIS was primarily responsible for the USDA’s role in the National Nutrition Monitoring System and in formulating dietary guidelines for the American public. The HNIS promoted healthy eating habits by conducting food consumption surveys, food composition research, and nutrition education programs. HNIS was abolished by USDA in 1994, and its functions were transferred to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Scope and Content Note

The USDA Human Nutrition Information Service Records contain historical background information about food and nutrition research and dietary guideline development in the USDA. The records include documents on legislative authority for nutrition research and education, the history and organization of HNIS, highlights of the organization’s accomplishments, and materials related to nutrition and health guidelines.

Collection materials include research reports on human nutrition, surveys, publications about nutrition, articles on dietary guidelines and their graphical representations, and nutrition brochures and leaflets. This collection also includes a few items about home economics projects related to textiles and clothing, as well as undated economic studies.

This collection is arranged into two series based on subject matter. Series I covers HNIS history and organization. Series II contains information about HNIS nutrition research, publications, and surveys.

Container List

Series I: History and Organization of HNIS. 1922-1994. 2 boxes.
Box Folder Title/Description Date(s)
1 1 Human Nutrition Research Division reorganization
Restricted: Personal information
1 2 Human Nutrition Research Division reorganization 1968-1971
1 3 Human nutrition research historical background and chronology 1922-1976
1 4 “Historical Outline of Food and Nutrition Research in the
Department of Agriculture from W. O. Atwater to 1976”
Circa 1976
1 5 Organization and management 1943-1958
1 6 Correspondence 1982
1 7 USDA reorganization and HNIS mission 1981-1985
1 8 History of HNIS research activities 1967-1984
1A 9 HNIS background 1971-1991
1A 10 List of HNIS administrative reports Undated
1A 11 Records management 1971, 1991-1992
1A 12 HNIS mission statement and organizational charts 1984-1991
1A 13 U.S. Congress representatives and contacts 1994, undated
1A 14 Legislative authority, public policy, and HNIS agency information 1977-1992
1A 15 “Early History of Human Nutrition in USDA” Undated
1A 16 Miscellaneous organizational charts 1933, 1981, 1986
1A 17 HNIS Administrator’s statement on fiscal year 1992 budget request 1991
1A 18 Staff project charts  
1A 19 Letter from Gerald Smith to Susan Fugate regarding transfer of HNIS documents to the National Agricultural Library Undated
Series II: Research, Publications, and Surveys on Nutrition. 1926-1994. 3 boxes.
Box Folder Title/Description Date(s)
2 20 Conversion table of common retail and household units of food into pounds 1946
2 21 The “Basic 7” food groups poster and article 1945, 1955
2 22 Home Economics research reports 1960
2 23 Food and nutrition research planning and accomplishments 1967
2 24 Audit of Institute of Home Economics 1960
2 25 Articles on dietary advice and meal planning 1980, 1984
2 26 Information about USDA publication “Food II” (also called “Food 2” or “Food/2”) 1981-1982
2 27 Census of Agriculture publicity 1982
2 28 Nutrition research publication and promotion activities Circa 1981-1991
2 29 HNIS progress report 1988-1989
2 30 USDA nutrition information services and policy 1984-1990, undated
2 31 Food guides and articles about dietary guidelines 1935-1990
2 32 International Food Consumption Survey 1990
2 33 Human nutrition and dietary guidelines research 1985-1992
2 34 Background on dietary guidelines for Americans Undated
3 35 “Men and Milestones in American Agriculture” 1966
3 36 Articles on food for couples and young families 1926-1971
3 37 “The Dietary Goals and Food on the Table” 1977
3 38 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey 1978-1991
3 39 Legislative authorities for USDA food and nutrition research 1965, 1982
3 40 “The Thrifty Food Plan” 1983
3 41 “Food Groups for USDA Family Food Plans” 1983
3 42 Results from food editors survey 1984
3 43 Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and slide presentation 1985
3 44 Articles about food groups and dietary guidelines 1950-1994
3 45 Background on HNIS policy for dietary guidance 1987, undated
3 46 Reprints: Journal of Nutrition Education articles on USDA dietary guidelines 1989
3 47 Focus groups report on American attitudes toward meal planning and nutrition 1989
3 48 Nutrition pamphlets and posters 1941-1990
3 49 “Progress in Sharing the Dietary Guidelines for
3 50 Public relations, meeting notes, and talking points related to food guidelines 1990-1991
3 51 “Nutrition Monitoring: Mismanagement of Nutrition Survey Has
Resulted in Questionable Work.” U.S. General Accounting Office
3 52 “Eating Right Pyramid” 1991
3 53 Dietary guidance graphic alternatives 1992
3 54 “USDA Food Guide: Background and Development” 1992
3 55 USDA Food Guides – Bibliographies 1992, undated
3 56 USDA's Food Guides – History and development 1970-1993
3 57 “USDA Tables of Food Composition: History and Progress” Undated
4 58 “Coordination of Federal Nutrition Programs” 1945
4 59 “A National Program of Research for Agriculture” 1966
4 60 “Nutritive Quality of Diets, USA” Circa 1968
4 61 “Eating the Moderate Fat and Cholesterol Way” 1982
4 62 Food and nutrition information from USDA and legislative authorities 1982
4 63 Statement by Raymond D. Lett, Executive Assistant to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, regarding information systems and services 1982
4 64 USDA focus group report on food preparation, menu planning, and eating out 1988
4 65 Background paper on dietary guidelines for Americans 1988
4 66 Home economics project summaries Circa 1932

Selected Bibliography

Related Collections at the National Agricultural Library

Wilbur Olin Atwater Papers, 1865-1993. Manuscript Collection 261.

International Food Information Service Records, 1970-1993. Manuscript Collection 283.

Charles Ford Langworthy Papers, 1904-1919. Manuscript Collection 96.

Nutrition Publications from Sandy Facinoli, 1922-1989. Manuscript Collection 318.

Hazel Katherine Stiebeling Papers, 1919-1990. Manuscript Collection 267.

USDA Textile Publications, 1920-1962. Manuscript Collection 308.

USDA Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics Records, 1921-1972. Manuscript Collection 334.