Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.
Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.
A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »
Students, school staff, teachers, and the entire community celebrate National School Lunch Week.
The fall season has arrived and with it the National School Lunch Week celebration! During the second week of October, USDA recognizes the important role school meal programs play in providing healthy, appetizing foods to their students. Over the last several weeks, USDA leaders visited schools to experience their meal programs first hand. And they were quite impressed! Now more than ever, today’s schools encourage healthy choices by featuring creative dishes and a variety of fruits and vegetables. USDA also got the chance to tour school gardens that harvest fresh ingredients and allow students to learn where their food comes from. It was exciting to see the many ways schools get students excited about health and nutrition and the important strides made to secure a healthier next generation.
After only three years since the updated nutrition standards were implemented, more than 96 percent of schools nationwide are meeting the standards. The impact is nothing short of inspiring. School lunch revenue has increased by up to $450 million; teachers report that students are more attentive in the classroom; and a Harvard study found students are now eating more fruits and vegetables! Read more »
From left: USDA Farm Service Executive Director for Connecticut, Brian Hulburt; Lt. Governor of Connecticut, Nancy Wyman; Town Manager of Coventry, Connecticut, John Elesser; Connecticut State Senator Cathy Osten; Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy; USDA Rural Development, Connecticut Area Director, Johan Strandson; USDA Rural Development State Director CT/MA/RI, Scott Soares; Ayanti Grant, District Director for Congressman Joe Courtney.
The first week of August brought an important milestone for communities in Connecticut. I was pleased to be on hand as our Governor, Dannel Malloy, held a ceremonial bill signing for Senate Bill 458. This legislation is significant because it changes the maturity date for municipal bonds issued in conjunction with any water, waste, or community facility loan from USDA Rural Development from an original 20 years to a 40 year bonding term. Of the 169 towns in the state of Connecticut, 69 of those have populations under 10,000. This makes them eligible to receive loans from USDA Rural Development through our community facilities program. This act will make repayment on such loans affordable for small towns that are in need of essential community facility additions and improvements. Read more »
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah greets cadets at First State Military Academy in Clayton, Delaware following the renovation of their campus through USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Program.
I had the opportunity to travel to Delaware to celebrate the Induction Ceremony of the First State Military Academy, an innovative charter high school bringing new life to an historic educational campus with the help of USDA Rural Development. Since 1896, Clayton, Delaware has been home to the sprawling, 35-acre St. Joseph’s educational campus. The site first hosted the St. Joseph’s Industrial School beginning in 1896 and was used as a school until 1972; it made it onto the historic register in 2002. Most recently, the site was home to Providence Creek Academy, a charter school for grades K-8. Through a separate collaboration with Rural Development, Providence Creek Academy was able to build a new complex behind the campus to accommodate its growing student population. With the historic educational campus now vacant, the First State Military Academy had a chance to make it their new home. Read more »
Through What's Growing On? taste tests students get to vote on the local produce option.
Rural communities are looking for innovative ways to sustain quality of life and build viable food systems that support the health and economic needs of their people. Working Landscapes is a Warrenton, N.C. nonprofit that creates sustainable food hubs by bridging the gap between local farmers and area consumers. As a 2015 USDA Farm to School grantee, Working Landscapes uses its food hub resources to link local farmers and northeastern North Carolina school districts, demonstrating that working together can make a difference in the quality of life for rural communities.
By Tim Williams, Program Manager, Working Landscapes
The lights are on and the machines whirring on a recent June morning in downtown Warrenton, N.C. From the outside, the former cotton gin warehouse doesn’t look like much, but what you find behind the historic facade is an innovative farm to school venture that is bringing locally grown, fresh-cut vegetables to students across the northeastern part of the state. Read more »
Horticultural research at land-grant universities is coming up with better types of grass that stands up to the stresses of NFL football. (iStock image)
Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal. Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.
All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic. So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding. Read more »