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Category: Food and Nutrition

Minneapolis Students Gear up for a School Year Full of Fresh, Locally Grown Foods

MPS Jr. Iron Chef Competition with Chef Ann Kim

MPS Jr. Iron Chef Competition with Chef Ann Kim and a True Food Chef Council member

It’s that time of year – books, backpacks and a BBQ!   That’s right – Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is preparing for its annual Farm to School Community BBQ, a much anticipated back-to-school event that kicks off the school year.  The following guest blog features inspiring initiatives MPS has implemented to serve local foods to its 35,000 students in the district.

Since 2011, MPS has sourced fresh produce, meats, baked goods and other products from local farmers and manufacturers.  Purchasing local foods supports Minnesota farms and small businesses and provides opportunities for students to learn how their food is grown by extending farm to school efforts beyond the cafeteria and into the classroom with visits from farmers and taste-tests.

Farm to school also helps to support another USDA initiative designed to enhance school meals – the What’s Shaking? Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium initiative.   Using local foods means that school nutrition programs are preparing more meals from scratch, allowing them to control the amount of sodium. Farm to school gets students engaged and excited about school meals – and with the community BBQ, both kids and their families get a sneak peek at what’s going to be on the lunch menu for the new school year.

By Kate Seybold, Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools

What better way to ring in the new school year than by celebrating the bounties of local produce that farmers harvest during the back-to-school season?  Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is hosting its Fifth Annual Farm to School Community BBQ – a community event built around fresh food, families and fun! The event brings together MPS students and their families, school staff, local farmers and vendors, True Food Chef Council members and other community partners in celebration of Minnesota Farm to School Month and our farm to school program. Read more »

Celebrating Progress: Back to School 2016-17

Students at Yorkshire Elementary School (Va.) enjoying healthy school meals

Students at Yorkshire Elementary School (Va.) enjoy healthy school meals.

As Deputy Under Secretary, I have the honor and the pleasure of traveling to schools across the country to see our programs in action.  Through my visits, I’ve had a chance to meet with hundreds of dedicated school administrators and school nutrition professionals, hearing countless testimonials of how they strive every day to serve students nutritious foods that will help them succeed in the classroom and grow into healthy adults.  As a former school nutrition director myself, these visits are one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

Now, as students return to school and we all turn our thoughts to the year ahead, I can’t help but to be inspired by what’s to come.  More than 50 million children attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.  These students are experiencing school environments that are healthier than ever, with balanced meals, healthy snacks, nutrition education and consistent messaging about the importance of healthy eating. Read more »

New MyPlate Resources for Families

Family in the park

MyPlate has new resources for families working together toward a healthier lifestyle.

It’s that time again…back-to-school season is upon us. It’s an exciting time of year for kids, offering a new beginning with the promise of new friends and new experiences. It’s also a great time for families to establish a new routine and work together toward a healthier lifestyle. ChooseMyPlate.gov and Team Nutrition just launched new resources to help your family eat better together, including printable activity sheets, tips for making mealtimes fun and stress-free, and videos featuring real families who share healthy eating solutions that work for them. Read more »

Farmers Market Managers: Innovative Entrepreneurs Meeting Community Needs

Elvis Cordova with Crofton Farmers Market managers

Elvis Cordova (middle), USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs presents National Farmers Market Week proclamations to (left to right) Crofton Farmers Market managers Chad Houck and Scott Hariton. Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and Maryland Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary, Jim Eichhorst.

The demand for local food is strong and growing. To meet the growing demand, farmers market managers are becoming creative entrepreneurs who connect rural America to urban and suburban businesses.

Last week, during National Farmers Market Week, I had the pleasure of visiting Crofton Farmers Market in Crofton, Maryland, to recognize state and local efforts to bring fresh foods and economic growth into their community. During my visit, I was given a tour of the market by market managers, Chad Houck and Scott Hariton, who are business partners with a passion for their community. Read more »

Getting Ready for Back to School? It’s MyPlate Quiz Time!

Test Your Food Group IQ graphic

Test your food group knowledge with new quizzes available at ChooseMyPlate.gov/quiz.

Think you know a lot about the five food groups? The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – the group that created MyPlate – just released a set of quizzes on the five food groups. These quizzes, designed to challenge, teach, and even entertain, are intended for anyone who wants to learn about the food groups or wants a refresher – adults and kids alike.

USDA’s food groups have been around for about 75 years. Though the current names of the food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – have changed slightly over time, the food groups were key components of MyPyramid (2005), the Food Guide Pyramid (1992), Food Wheel (1984), Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide (1979), Basic Four (1956), and Basic Seven (1940). For more information on the previous food guides, visit A Brief History of USDA Food Guides. Food groups make it easier to learn about nutrition and plan healthy meals. Each food group provides specific nutrients that our bodies need, so instead of trying to track dozens of nutrients, you can just focus on getting the five groups. Read more »

It’s Not Too Late to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

Flowers from Hamburg NY Chamber of Commerce

Communities like Hamburg, New York, pictured above, joined USDA in celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Their chamber of commerce shared #marketfav after #marketfav on Twitter all week. Photo courtesy @HamburgChamber on Twitter.

National Farmers Market Week is a good example of why I say it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. More than ever, all segments of the food industry are coming together to provide consumers with foods fresh from the farm, and farmers markets lead the way.

As I visited markets in Alexandria, La., and Greenwood, S.C.—and right here in Washington, D.C.—I saw firsthand the positive impact of farmers markets on the businesses and communities around them.  And, through our 2015 Market Managers Survey results, we know that across the nation farmers markets are helping build businesses and bring communities together. Read more »