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USDA’s Nutrition Tour Makes a Stop in Las Vegas

Audrey Rowe, Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs
School Tours, Las Vegas, Nevada
April 26 and 28, 2010

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit two schools in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs.  As Deputy Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Special Nutrition Programs, one of my top priorities is to improve the nutrition and health of our nation’s children.

During my trip, I visited two local schools in the Clark County School District to see our child nutrition programs at work.  My first stop was Reynaldo Martinez Elementary, where I met many wonderful children during the afterschool snack program.  The children were incredibly enthusiastic to hear that I brought them greetings on behalf of President and First Lady Obama, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. To say the least, there were many hoots and hollers.  Creating even more excitement were the delicious beef tacos the children were enjoying!

This afterschool program is made possible by a fantastic partnership between Three Square Food Bank and After-School All-Stars.  With a primary focus on at-risk youth, it is a successful collaboration among different organizations to provide nutritious meals to children.  Nevada is one of only 13 states that are eligible to serve meals in afterschool programs through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

After my visit to Martinez Elementary, I was fortunate to squeeze in a visit to Three Square’s facility—one of the largest in the state—and was amazed with the program they run.  The food bank provides afterschool meals through CACFP at nine schools and serves 130 meals to children at Martinez Elementary School each day.

The second stop on my Las Vegas school tour was Hollingsworth Elementary to see their breakfast program.   With a total of 92% of the school’s students qualifying for free or reduced price meals, both the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs provide a nutritional safety net to ensure that these students are able to have at least two nutritious meals each day.

It was such a pleasure talking to these bright students and their parents about the benefits of school meals.  Some of them told me that they were very grateful to have the breakfast program at school – and were especially happy to have a few options to choose from.

I was so happy to see students starting their day with a nutritious breakfast since we know that children learn better and are more successful in school after eating a healthy breakfast.

After the breakfast service, I had the opportunity to talk with state and school officials, as well as a state Senator, about the challenges of operating the school meals programs. I shared with them how the Administration’s proposals for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization will provide them the help they need to improve the nutritional quality of school meals and the overall health of the school environment.  And I was able to hear from them what their priorities are and what they hope to see in the reauthorization bill.

As my Las Vegas tour came to an end, I thought about all the wonderful people I had met over those two days – from teachers and principals to nonprofit workers and a state representative, and of course, all of the children.  This trip made me realize how effective a group of passionate people can be in providing children the opportunity to have a few good meals each day.

I am very excited about our opportunity to pass legislation that will combat childhood hunger and obesity among schoolchildren and that will provide schools with the tools and resources needed to help children develop healthier eating habits.

Kids at Hollingsworth Elementary talk to Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs about how having a delicious and healthy breakfast helps them to learn.

Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs, eats breakfast with students at Hollingsworth Elementary in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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