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USDA Supports Schools in Implementing Updated Nutrition Standards

New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.

New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.

Each and every school day, over 30 million children participate in USDA’s school meals programs; many of these children consume two or more of their daily meals at school.  There’s no denying that school food plays a critical role in children’s diets, and USDA takes this responsibility very seriously.  We are committed to doing our part to ensure a healthier next generation!

Given public concern about our children’s current and future health, USDA has issued updated school meal standards stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These science-based standards call for increasing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, while at the same time limiting less healthy fats, sugar, sodium and excess calories.  Schools across the country are stepping up to the plate.  In fact, about 90% of schools across the country are already meeting the updated standards!  That’s not to say that their work is done.  Some schools have found that they lack the necessary equipment or tools to prepare healthy meals for all students. Read more »

Forest Service Applauds the United Nations’ Second Annual International Day of Forests

The forests that cling to the steep slopes and cliffs of New Zealand’s Milford Sound are an example of the many pristine forest lands protected throughout the world (U.S. Forest Service/Robert Westover)

The forests that cling to the steep slopes and cliffs of New Zealand’s Milford Sound are an example of the many pristine forest lands protected throughout the world (U.S. Forest Service/Robert Westover)

A world without forests would be pretty bleak. Life as we know it couldn’t exist. In fact it would, more than likely, be a dead planet. That’s because everything we take for granted; clean air and water, abundant wildlife and nearly every product we use in our daily lives, from the roof above our heads to pencils, wouldn’t exist.

It would be a challenge just to live one day without using a product derived from a tree. Aside from paper, you might not even be able to sit in a chair or desk at school or work. These things are part of our everyday existence because of forests.

Since trees are important for everyone around the world, the United Nations (U.N.) has designated every March 21 as the International Day of Forests. Read more »

The Power of Women in Agriculture

Cross-posted on the White House Council on Women and Girls blog:

Agriculture touches our lives each and every day—whether actively farming and ranching, conducting research, or shopping at the grocery store—and women leaders play an increasingly pivotal role across the board.

The number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978. Across the country, nearly 300,000 women serve as principal operators on 62.7 million acres of farm and ranchland, accounting for $12.9 billion in farm products in 2012. Countless more women live, work and raise families in rural America. At USDA, we support projects designed to help women in agriculture improve production, develop good business and risk management practices and transfer knowledge to other women agricultural leaders. Read more »

Producing Positive Results During National Nutrition Month

The Produce Safety University is a collaborative effort between AMS, FNS, and local schools. The training teaches school foodservice personnel things like how to safely handle, prepare, and store fresh fruits and vegetables. USDA photo by Christopher Purdy.

The Produce Safety University is a collaborative effort between AMS, FNS, and local schools. The training teaches school foodservice personnel things like how to safely handle, prepare, and store fresh fruits and vegetables. USDA photo by Christopher Purdy.

Healthy eating plus physical fitness equals a positive lifestyle. It is a concept that has been talked about for years. Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of the equation and a corner stone for National Nutrition Month. Through a number of services, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) ensures that fresh, high-quality produce can reach each and every neighborhood.

USDA knows it is important to develop good eating habits early, so we work with schools to make sure our children fill their plates with quality, wholesome fruits and vegetables. For example, a Memorandum of Understanding between AMS, the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Service (FNCS) and local schools helps introduce fresh, locally-produced foods on school menus. To date, the Produce Safety University (PSU) has taught more than 400 school food service personnel how to safely handle and confidently purchase fresh produce. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Serving Up Healthy Food and a Healthier Next Generation

This article was originally posted on ServiceNation.org. Read the original here.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I take USDA’s nickname of the “People’s Department”—first coined by President Abraham Lincoln—to heart. Over the past five years, we have worked hard to build upon our tradition of service to the American people, supporting both the farmers and ranchers who grow our food and giving American families confidence that the food they buy at the grocery store is safe, healthy and affordable.

We could not accomplish our mission without the contributions of partner organizations and individual volunteers across the country. While our work with volunteers is by no means exclusive to nutrition and nutrition education, volunteers act as our boots on the ground in classrooms and communities to teach kids about where food comes from and why the diet and lifestyle choices they make today matter for their future. Volunteers, along with parents, teachers, school administrators, and school food service professionals, are absolutely critical to our efforts to improve childhood nutrition and help this generation of youngsters grow up healthy and strong. Read more »