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Tales from a School Food Service Director: It’s all about the Brand

Andover High School's school meal staff serving up food samples

Andover High School's school meal staff serving up samples of their nutritious and delicious foods.

This guest blog showcases the success story of a school food service director in an upper-class suburb of Boston.  The director discusses some of the creative methods her school meal program uses to boost participation and, thereby, promote health and nutrition in their district.

By Gail Koutroubas, School Food Service Director in Andover, MA

For 10 years, I’ve been a school food service director at Andover School District in Massachusetts.  My district of 5,900 students lies in an upper-class suburb of Boston. The median income is approximately $140,000 with just 7 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunch. Read more »

Cattle and Honey Bees Graze in Harmony on Wisconsin Farm

Reed Fitton with cattle and a tree behind him

Reed Fitton has enhanced honey bee habitat on the pastures he manages near Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

Reed Fitton grazes cattle on the same hilltop farm where the late conservationist Ben Logan grew up and later featured in his memoir, “The Land Remembers.” Fitton carefully manages the farm near Gays Mills, Wisconsin with a broad conservation ethic, preventing soil erosion and protecting waterways. He has also transformed the Ben Logan’s “Seldom Seen Farm” into an oasis for honey bees and other pollinators.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a new coordinated effort to improve honey bee habitat in 2014, Fitton was one of the first to participate. He works closely with NRCS to make improvements to the land that provide better forage for his cattle, improve existing hayfields and convert former corn fields into healthy pasture. Read more »

Next Steps for Team Up for School Nutrition Success

Teams sharing menu planning alternatives during training

Teams share menu planning alternatives during training.

Over the past year, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partnered with the Institute for Child Nutrition (ICN) to host seven regional workshops called Team Up for School Nutrition SuccessThe two day, face-to-face workshops used a research-based mentorship model to educate and empower school nutrition professionals around the country. Each training was tailored to the specific needs of that region. Topics included everything from menu planning to financial management and meal presentation. Participants shared challenges and solutions, identified program strengths, and developed action plans for implementing their new ideas.

Thanks to the Team Up for School Nutrition Success training, the participants reported they can now: Read more »

Taste Fall Flavors with “Simply Soup” at the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, October 16th

USDA Farmers Market at Night Simply Soup poster

Join us for the last USDA Farmers Market at Night this Friday, October 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup in the fall. Our vendors are serving soups, stews, and chilis from all over the globe at the last USDA Farmers Market at Night this Friday, October 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  From spicy Lao rice vermicelli soup to a Scottish soup dish of chicken and leeks, vendors will be serving cozy soups filled with fall favorites like apples, butternut squash, and chile peppers.  With more than 15 different choices, you will be challenged to find a favorite! Read more »

Investing in Learning Resources for Homeschoolers

Students in the yearbook class coming together at the school’s new resource center in Marysville, Calif

Students in the yearbook class come together at the school’s new resource center in Marysville, Calif. The charter school offers a unique hybrid learning model combining homeschooling and traditional classroom learning for their 420 students.

More than one million children are homeschooled nationwide, and with that, over a million parents have committed huge amounts of time, money and patience into ensuring their children receive specialized one-on-one education. USDA Rural Development understands the challenges of homeschooling, and is an ally to the folks in rural America who choose this path.

In Marysville, California a unique charter school offers a special opportunity to homeschooled students: teachers and classrooms.  CORE @ the Camptonville Academy utilizes a Personalized Learning model which tailors one-on-one teaching with a focus on individual learning styles. Students who learn at home can come to the Academy for specialized classes and attention in subjects from math and science to 3D animation and robotics. Read more »

Wisconsin not only the “Dairy State” but also the “Cranberry State”

Ripe berries on the vine ready to be picked at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass.

Ripe berries on the vine ready to be picked at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass. Photo by Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries used with permission.

Most have probably heard Wisconsin’s famous moniker “The America’s Dairyland.” This nickname is definitely befitting considering our long history with milk production. But, while our milk, cheeses, and other dairy products are available year-round, the fall season brings attention to a completely different commodity. I’m talking about cranberries.

Alongside pumpkins, apples, and pears, cranberries are a staple of American cuisine during the fall months. But did you know that most cranberries in the United States come from Wisconsin? Our growers produce 60 percent of the cranberries in the United States?  Last year alone, more than 5 million barrels of cranberries came from Wisconsin. One barrel weighs 100 pounds, which means our growers produced more than 250,000 tons of this amazing fruit. Read more »