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Turning the Tide on Early Childhood Obesity

CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC

CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC

Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life.  So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.

The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country.  Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »

Federal Officials Visit Future Site of Primeros Pasos (First Steps)

United States Senators Tom Carper (left)  and Chris Coons (right) with children attending Primeros Pasos (First Steps).  The children will move to a larger facility with funding assistance from USDA. USDA photo.

United States Senators Tom Carper (left) and Chris Coons (right) with children attending Primeros Pasos (First Steps). The children will move to a larger facility with funding assistance from USDA. USDA photo.

Last week, United States Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons and USDA officials announced a federal grant award to Primeros Pasos, a non-profit organization dedicated to the establishment of a multi-cultural early child care education center for all children of families living and working in the Georgetown, Delaware area.

USDA recognizes that access to quality child care is a major component in helping the unemployed and underemployed make the transition to employment.  This organization is improving the quality of life in rural America and is gifted with the two elements necessary for the success of this facility — sound management and community support. Read more »

“Meet Me at the Market” – The Evolution of a Farmers Market

The Romanesque Revival market house, pictured above, was built in 1889. Today, Central Market is home to many families that have been coming to the market for generations. Photo courtesy Lancaster Central Market.

The Romanesque Revival market house, pictured above, was built in 1889. Today, Central Market is home to many families that have been coming to the market for generations. Photo courtesy Lancaster Central Market.

What better time than National Farmers Market Week to explore the history of farmers markets in the United States?  Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation’s food system, and date back to 1730 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the United States.

“Meet me at the Market” has for decades been a phrase commonly heard by Lancaster citizens.  In 1730, when city planners designed the city they designated a 120 square foot lot in the center of town as a public market place giving birth to the Lancaster Central Market.  Over the years the size of the market and the number of vendors has changed, but there’s evidence that the farmers market may have had 400 vendors at one point in time. Read more »

Farm to School Is An Important Ingredient in the Recipe For Success in Purvis, Mississippi

Farm to school programs are mutually beneficial – kids get fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers build a new customer base.

Farm to school programs are mutually beneficial – kids get fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers build a new customer base.

“Our farm to school program helps our district offer more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis,” said Julie Hamilton, school food service director of operations/training for Lamar County Schools in Purvis, Miss.  “Being exposed to more choices, the young students will learn to like them and make healthier food choices over their lifetimes.”

Offering more fruits and vegetables to students is part of the new requirements recently passed by Congress to improve nutrition in the nation’s schools.  Utilizing a farm to school approach – where locally sourced products are featured in the school cafeteria – is an effective way to make it easier to meet these new standards and help the students at the same time. Read more »

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Help Feed Kids During the Summer

Ensuring disadvantaged children have enough to eat during the summer is a top priority for USDA. Historically Black Colleges and Universities can play a critical role in helping us achieve this goal.

Ensuring disadvantaged children have enough to eat during the summer is a top priority for USDA. Historically Black Colleges and Universities can play a critical role in helping us achieve this goal.

Although about 21 million children nationwide receive free and reduced-priced meals through our National School Lunch Program, only about 3.5 million meals are served through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) on a typical day. Closing this gap and ensuring that disadvantaged children do not go hungry during the summer months is a goal that USDA can only achieve through work with our partners.

One of the ways we’re strengthening partnerships is through our StrikeForce Initiative which helps us target state partners to work with across the country including universities and colleges. A great example of this initiative at work is the Alabama Department of Education teaming up with Tuskegee University, a Historically Black University in Alabama, which now sponsors four community-based summer feeding sites in Macon County where disadvantaged kids can get a free and nutritious summer meal. Read more »