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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 »

Growing a Daily Dose of Nature for Everyone

Students and staff from the University of Florida working together to plant trees

Students and staff from the University of Florida work together to plant trees on campus as part of a Tree Campus USA service learning project. Photo credit: Arbor Day

Research has shown that positive social benefits, including health and wellness, can come from a simple daily dose of nature. Children with nearby access and views of nature often show fewer symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and increased mental concentration and focus.

In many ways, urban forests are unsung heroes of strong, vital and healthy communities, enriching the lives of the more than 80 percent of Americans who live in cities among the nation’s 136 million acres of urban forest land. The U.S. Forest Service, together with the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council, helps these forests grow and thrive. Read more »

Every Additional Kid Is a Win: Breaking Down Barriers Around Afterschool Meals

Kids eating at table

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs like USDA's Food Nutrition Service (FNS) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.

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. We could not have done this work without the support of our partners. Below is a story from one of our partners, Share Our Strength, about a pilot conducted through our Child and Adult-care Food Program, or CACFP.  Through CACFP, schools can offer one meal and/or one snack in a congregate meal setting as part of enrichment programs offered outside of regular school hours.

By Wendy Bolger, Director of Program Innovation Strategy, No Kid Hungry

“Any time we can feed an additional kid, even just one, that’s a win!”

Who doesn’t need an energy boost around 3pm?   Kids may be out of school by 3pm, but their day is far from done.  Most kids have a full afternoon of sports, activities, and homework to do, and to be successful, growing bodies and child-sized tummies require a nutritional boost. Read more »

It’s Christmas All Year in Idaho

U.S. Forest Service employee Cheyenne Warner helping children make ornaments that will adorn the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

U.S. Forest Service employee Cheyenne Warner helps children make ornaments that will adorn the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree when it’s delivered to Washington, D.C., later this year. The tree is considered “The People’s Tree” and one is harvested from a different national forest each year. (U.S. Forest Service/Charity Parks)

The annual tradition of providing a Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol got an early start last month at the McCall, Idaho, Winter Carnival. The Payette National Forest is providing the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, historically and fondly known as “The People’s Tree,” which will adorn the West Lawn of Capitol Hill in December.

It seemed fitting to stage the kick-off event in McCall because the forest surrounds the city. The public event, which swells the town of 3,000 to as many as 60,000 people, has many activities including building larger-than-life snow sculptures. This year employees and friends of the Payette National Forest built an ice sculpture to celebrate their People’s Tree’s eventual arrival in Washington, D.C. Read more »

A Peach of a School Meal Alternative

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015.

An increasing number of our nation’s schools are using locally grown foods for school meals thanks to efforts of The USDA Farm to School Program. However, the availability of locally grown produce is often at the mercy of harsh weather conditions and other elements that lower production and cause shortages of popular food items.

Florida has experienced this challenge first-hand. A disease called citrus greening has already caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida’s orange crop.  USDA scientists have been actively engaged in research to eradicate the disease, but the fruit, a favorite of school children, is now less available than in the past. The Florida Farm to School team is working with Florida Classic Growers to provide a new fruit alternative for school menus while also assisting fruit growers hit by damage to their orange crop.

By Lindsey Grubbs, Florida Farm to School and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program Director, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Farm to School Program took on a new project this year in conjunction with citrus growers focused on a new product in Florida: peaches! The Florida citrus industry has been experiencing difficulties recently with the spread of citrus greening. Citrus greening was discovered in Florida in 2005 and since taken a toll on the area’s orange groves. Read more »

Modern Solutions for Personal Nutrition

At-a-glance view of dietary intake provided by SuperTracker’s Food Tracker feature

At-a-glance view of dietary intake provided by SuperTracker’s Food Tracker feature, available on desktop, mobile, and tablet

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.

Knowing what and how much to eat can be complicated. And in today’s quick-paced society, Americans are looking for modern, on-the-go solutions for all aspects of our lives, including personal nutrition. USDA offers a variety of online tools, available on desktop, tablet, and mobile, to help you plan a healthy diet and see how you’re doing over time.

SuperTracker is a free food, physical activity, and weight tracking tool. It provides nutrition recommendations based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are personalized for your specific needs. You can track your foods to see how your choices stack up and quickly identify small changes for improvement. SuperTracker can help you build your own healthy eating style through interactive tracking. The Food Tracker feature offers an at-a-glance view of your dietary intake, including the five MyPlate food groups, calories, added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Read more »