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Whitefish Public Schools Take Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in Stride

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

Whitefish Public Schools Food Service Director Jay Stagg started transitioning to more scratch cooking and using fewer processed foods when he was hired 5 years ago. So, when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) rules were implemented, it might have seemed as though they were just catching up with the improvements he had initiated.

“There weren’t too many changes needed from what I was already doing,” he said.

Before the final regulation’s effective date, Stagg had already changed over to whole-grain-rich products and reduced sodium levels. Read more »

Trading Spaces: Urbanized Detroit to Forested Manistique, Michigan

A group of young people from Detroit walk a somewhat unfamiliar path along the shoreline of Clear Lake on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. The U.S. Forest Service teams with partners to help open the world of natural resources to children who live in cities. (U.S. Forest Service)

A group of young people from Detroit walk a somewhat unfamiliar path along the shoreline of Clear Lake on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. The U.S. Forest Service teams with partners to help open the world of natural resources to children who live in cities. (U.S. Forest Service)

Detroit youth joined the U.S. Forest Service and traded their city lights and busy streets for an action-packed three days on the Hiawatha National Forest filled with views of trees, wildlife and dirt roads.

For most, this was their first time experiencing life outside the metropolitan area and entering the forest near Manistique, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The youth were filled with excitement and nerves as they prepared for their day that would be spent learning about different aspects of the Forest Service and information about the forest itself. Read more »

USDA Seeks Public Feedback on Policies with School Meals Charges

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren.  I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.

Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight.  Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »

Wyoming Landowners Restore Riparian Areas in Big Horn Basin

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

It took Dee Hillberry six years before he could get a handle on encroaching and hardy invasive vegetation. Working on two separate properties, he removed tamarisk trees, or salt cedars, from 200 acres along Cottonwood Creek and Russian olive trees from 100 acres along the Big Horn River.

Despite Hillberry’s hard work in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, his efforts in restoring riparian areas were part of a larger endeavor that involved work done in phases over several years, over hundreds of miles, and with numerous partners in the Big Horn River basin. The basin is about 100 miles wide, and so far, more than 13,000 acres of invasive trees have been removed from the riparian area. Read more »

US Forest Service Entomologist Takes on Pesky Insects to Make a Difference in the Northeast

Ryan Hanavan, entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. (Courtesy Ryan Hanavan)

Ryan Hanavan, entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. (Courtesy Ryan Hanavan)

Ryan Hanavan is a multi-faceted individual who enjoys his work on the front lines of forest health as an entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.

“I have always been fascinated by insects and this career has essentially allowed me to explore a lifelong curiosity,” Hanavan said. “I have also always been interested in using new technology to improve methods and techniques and the Forest Service has been extremely supportive in developing faster, better, and cheaper tools for detecting and monitoring forest pests.” Read more »

Farm to School: We Are Here to Help!

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.

One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »