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Category: Food and Nutrition

Healthy and Happy Students in D.C. Public Schools

Students from District of Columbia Public Schools enjoy locally sourced fresh strawberries during the annual Strawberries and Salad Greens Day celebration this spring.

Students from District of Columbia Public Schools enjoy locally sourced fresh strawberries during the annual Strawberries and Salad Greens Day celebration this spring.

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! To learn more about FNS nutrition assistance efforts, follow us on twitter at twitter.com/usdanutrition

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USDA’s What’s Cooking website serves up cost effective, healthy recipes

What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl is a new interactive tool featuring USDA recipes to encourage budget-friendly and nutritious meals.

What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl is a new interactive tool featuring USDA recipes to encourage budget-friendly and nutritious meals.

The busy holiday season has begun and families everywhere are starting to plan ahead.  If you’re looking for easy to make, nutritious family meals that you can cook quickly on a tight budget, USDA is here to help with a new web tool, called What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

As Americans prepare for the annual holiday harvest that is Thanksgiving, the American Farm Bureau Federation estimates they can expect to spend an average of $49.04 on a meal for a family of 10.  Our What’s Cooking? tool offers families lower cost alternatives, not just for the holidays but for every day. Read more »

The Many Reasons USDA is Celebrating 50 Years of SNAP

SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States.

SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States.

Half a century ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964, making the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which at the time was a series of pilot projects, permanent. Despite the post-World War II economic boom felt by many Americans, some rural and urban areas of the country experienced extreme poverty as well as limited access to nutritious, affordable food. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was an important component in President Johnson’s effort to eliminate poverty. This year, we not only mark 50 years of SNAP as a nationwide program, but we also recognize the lasting changes it has produced in both the economy and the nutrition habits of Americans. 

In those early days, the FSP reached families living in deprived areas and served a dual purpose.  It strengthened the agricultural economy, while also providing improved levels of nutrition among low-income households. Even though the FSP was renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008, its mission is the same. SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States while supporting the economy. Read more »

Giving Thanks to Local Farmers

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites.  Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites. Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

On Thanksgiving, friends, families and communities come together across America to give thanks and celebrate the autumn harvest.  I love the opportunity to reflect on all that I am grateful for, including the  hard-working farmers and ranchers who provide the delicious and nutritious food for the Thanksgiving table.  I also enjoy making my favorite traditional dishes with fresh, local ingredients that support the farmers and ranchers in my own community. 

Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of four pillars of USDA’s work to help revitalize the rural economy, create jobs and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.   Buying local supports the farmers and small businesses in your community, making it the perfect way to say thank you. Read more »

Connecting Schoolchildren to Healthy Food Choices

Concannon chats with Takoma Park Middle School’s eighth grade Family and Consumer Science class, where students examine food labeling and packaging.

Concannon chats with Takoma Park Middle School’s eighth grade Family and Consumer Science class, where students examine food labeling and packaging.

Last month, schools all across the nation celebrated National School Lunch Week, honoring the importance of healthy meals to education.  I was able to join in one of these celebrations right here in the national Capital area, and the great things I saw at Takoma Park (Md.) Middle School are still fresh in my mind.

I was already aware of the commitment that the Division of Nutrition and Food Services of Montgomery County Public Schools has made to serving healthy meals, as well some of the important strides they have taken across this large district.  But on this trip, I wanted to see first-hand how Takoma Park Principal Alicia Teeny and her teaching staff connect children in the classroom to healthy food choices. Read more »

USDA and Partners Build a Healthier Next Generation!

Through partnership, FNS and NFSMI will work with school food authorities to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day.

Through partnership, FNS and NFSMI will work with school food authorities to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day.

As schools continue to move forward with serving healthier meals to tens of millions of our nation’s school children, there is a natural need for a model of sharing best practices. To provide that support, our partner, the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), will pilot the Team Up For Success Training Initiative in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Southeast Region.

Through the initiative, schools will participate in a tailored training workshop and then enter into a peer-to-peer mentoring program designed to address their individual needs and resources.  The pilot will be conducted with about 48 school food authorities to help schools implement the updated meal requirements while maintaining financial stability and student participation.

We appreciate all that the NFSMI is doing to help build a healthier next generation.

By Katie Wilson, PhD, SNS Executive Director National Food Service Management Institute, The University of Mississippi

Team Up for School Nutrition Success is an exciting new initiative of collaboration between USDA and the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI) providing a peer to peer mentoring program for school nutrition directors. This first pilot in the Southeast Region includes over 100 attendees invited to discuss challenges, identify best practices, and learn about free resources available to them from a variety of allied organizations. Read more »