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Under Secretary Concannon Visits Riverside for Farmer’s Market Salad Bar Program 5th Anniversary

USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon

On Friday, I had the opportunity to join a celebration of the 5th anniversary of Riverside Unified School District’s internationally recognized Farmers’ Market Salad Bar Program in Riverside, Cali.  The successful program began as a pilot farm to school salad bar program and today provides healthier options on the menus in the Riverside School District.

The salad bar program at the Riverside Unified School District provides a unique opportunity for students to not only enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers but to also grow their own produce. The partnership among schools, community, and local and state government is essential to building healthy dietary behaviors for our nation’s next generation.

I enjoyed meeting Rodney Taylor, school district director of nutrition services, who is often referred to as the “King of Farm to School.” Taylor revolutionized food service in the school district, providing high-quality meals cooked from scratch using locally-sourced ingredients at the middle and high schools. Twenty-nine of the district’s 30 elementary schools offer a daily farmers’ market salad bar. Thirty-three percent of the elementary students choose the salad bar for lunch. Since the program started, lunch participation has increased from 47 to 65 percent.

The Farm to School program at Riverside Unified School District is not just limited to the lunch tray—students also learn from a registered dietician about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Local farmers also visit and help students understand how and where healthy foods come from.

“We are excited to celebrate this milestone with the entire community,” said Taylor. “Five years ago, we began an incredibly ambitious project to bring fresh produce to as many students as possible. The Farmers’ Market Salad Bar program has allowed us to do just that.”

As part of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, members from the USDA Farm to School Team will visit Riverside Unified School District. During their visit, the team will work with local farmers, local and state authorities, school districts, and community partners to learn about Riverside’s farm to school efforts, including how the activities first began, the relationship between growers and the school district, what obstacles exist or were faced along the way, and the benefits the activities have had on the school and the community.

USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon chats with Emerson Elementary School’s Green Team students.
USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon chats with Emerson Elementary School’s Green Team students.

Emerson Elementary School Green Team students volunteer their lunch recess to work in the garden (composting, planting, exploring and experimenting) each day with a passion.
Emerson Elementary School Green Team students volunteer their lunch recess to work in the garden (composting, planting, exploring and experimenting) each day with a passion.


Your Health, Our National Security

By Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Today I joined U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and retired admirals and generals from the non-profit group, Mission: Readiness, to release the results of a study on obesity among young adults. The report delivered some disturbing news – more than 9 million young adults, age 17 to 24, are now too overweight to join the military.  But with this news comes opportunity and optimism to help our kids across the country to lead healthier lifestyles.

The Mission: Readiness group, which consists of more than 130 retired admirals, generals and other military leaders, has shown America that the obesity epidemic is threatening the nation’s security, and is calling on Congress to support the administration’s proposal of an increase of $1 billion per year for ten years for child nutrition programs.

As Congress debates reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, it is important to recognize the historical context and future impact this legislation will have on our nation – our economy, our national security, and our communities. Immediately after the World War II, our leaders understood the importance of investing in good nutrition to ensure that the country would never want for healthy, strong, young people to serve in uniform.  And so, in 1946, President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act – which formed the basis for the nutrition programs we still have in place today.

Fast forward 60 years and we are faced with a generation of young Americans that are not healthy or fit enough to serve their country as their forefathers have.  The Obama Administration and Mission Readiness stand united behind the following priorities for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act: get the junk food out of our schools; support increased funding to improve nutritional standards and the quality of meals served in schools; and provide more children access to effective programs that cut obesity.

This is a crisis that strikes at the core value of service to country and community. Let this study serve as a call to action for all Americans. What can you do to help your country? Get fit, get active, get healthy