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Training the Teachers in Our Biggest Classrooms

Maple Avenue Market Farm co-owner Sara Guerre invited students to learn about their local farmers, during a National School Lunch Week event at Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, VA

Maple Avenue Market Farm co-owner Sara Guerre invited students to learn about their local farmers, during a National School Lunch Week event at Nottingham Elementary School in Arlington, VA, on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Bridgette Matthews is a Lead Mentor for USDA’s Team Up for Nutrition Success Initiative, which provides school food authorities with tailored technical assistance and training to successfully implement the school meal patterns.  Here, Bridgette discusses the importance of training for school nutrition staff.  A recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the majority of school food service directors believe their staffs need more training to maximize the benefits of the new nutrition standards.  Bridgette’s examples demonstrate how proper training can not only help staff meet the new standards, but also prepare them to teach students about making healthy choices.

By Bridgette Matthews, School Nutrition Director for Elbert County Schools, Georgia

Like their fellow educators down the hall, the school nutrition professionals I work with must be well-prepared to answer students’ tough questions. That’s why staff training and development are crucial parts of our school meal program—for me as the director and for our whole team.

Nutrition training is particularly important for my front-line servers and cashiers, because they’re the ones who talk with students the most each day. How they respond to even a seemingly minor question—such as “Why doesn’t this sandwich have pickles?”—can affect children’s choices and their overall impression of our program. Read more »

Food Safety in Numbers

Two boys with their school meals

USDA works with producers, processors and other federal and state officials to ensure that beef delivered to program recipients is safe and nutritious.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases nearly 100 million pounds of boneless and ground beef each year for distribution through Federal nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program.  AMS works tirelessly with producers, processors, and other federal and state officials to ensure that beef delivered to program recipients is safe and nutritious.

The products we purchase support American agriculture through domestic-only purchases that are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country.  These purchases are a vital component of our nation’s food security program.  The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division – part of the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed program – sets standards and provides testing and oversight for these purchases. Read more »

A High Five for Innovative Conservation Projects

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program has an impressive track record of fostering innovative conservation tools and strategies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he announced $20 million in new funding for the program. “Successes in the program can translate into new opportunities for historically underserved landowners, help resolve pressing water conservation challenges and leverage new investments in conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. Last year CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Read more »

Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going Next

Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon sharing a healthy lunch with a kindergarten student at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School

Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon shares a healthy lunch with a kindergarten student at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School in New Orleans, LA.

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

The United States has always prided itself on lending a helping hand to its citizens in trying times. Throughout our history, when Americans have fallen on hardship, our safety net has stepped in to provide temporary help to those who need it. When I walked into USDA on my first day in 2009, the United States was in the midst of one of the worst economic downturns in our history. Record numbers of people suddenly found themselves and their families in dire circumstances without enough income to make ends meet or put food on the table. At that time of great need, millions turned to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help them ease their hunger.

Since Secretary Vilsack invited me to join him at USDA as Under Secretary of Food and Nutrition Consumer Services (FNCS) in 2009, not only have we helped to bring America back from the brink of a second economic depression, we have also worked to institutionalize more opportunities and pathways directed at helping states assist consumers and expand direct access to healthy and affordable food. Read more »

Cooking Up a Healthy, Delicious School Breakfast: Idaho’s Chef Designed School Breakfast

The Corny Huevos Rancheros breakfast entrée

The Corny Huevos Rancheros breakfast entrée packs in a 0.5 cup serving of vegetables at breakfast!

For 50 years, the School Breakfast Program has provided children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced meal consistent with the latest nutrition science to set them up for a healthy day of growing and learning.  And once again, USDA is celebrating School Breakfast Week (March 7-11) to raise awareness about the many ways the program benefits school kids nationwide.  The blog below highlights a (Fiscal Year 2013) Team Nutrition Training Grantee’s launch of their Chef Designed School Breakfast initiative, reminding us all that good nutrition is critical to a child’s overall success!

By Jennifer Butler, MEd and Brenda Thompson-Wattles, RDN Idaho Department of Education

As the old adage goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! This couldn’t be more true for our Idaho students. Our school staff noticed firsthand what researchers have been reporting about the benefits of eating breakfast. When kids eat breakfast, they are better able to pay attention, behave in class, and learn what is being taught.  It’s important on test days, as well as on all the days leading up to the tests! Read more »

Outstanding Summer Sites Offer Tips for Improving Summer Meal Programs

Arizona Cardinals football player Drew Butler making pizza with kids at the Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy of the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona

Arizona Cardinals football player Drew Butler makes pizza with kids at the Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy of the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona during Pizza Camp, funded by the Dairy Council of Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Dairy Council of Arizona)

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, we have seen some extraordinary summer meal programs sponsors and partners. Here are three key tips we learned from some stellar partners in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region that other programs can follow to ensure successful summer programs next year! Read more »