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Category: Food and Nutrition

Summer Sunshine Award Winners!

FNS staff participating in a Summer Food Service Program Kick-off event

On June 13, 2013, FNS staff participated in a Summer Food Service Program Kick-off event in Sacramento, CA.

It may be the middle of winter, but at USDA, we like to celebrate the success of our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) all year long.  Therefore, the Western Regional Office is thrilled to announce the winners and honorable mentions of the 2014 Summer Sunshine Awards.  A total of eight organizations across the region received Sunshine Awards in 4 unique categories in recognition of their standout efforts in operating the SFSP.  The programs impact in local communities depends on the hard work of state agencies, partnering organizations, local sites and sponsors.  These awards only begin to show our appreciation for the dedication, innovation, and passion behind the respective organizations.

In the category of Strategies to Promote Nutrition and Wellness, California’s Riverside Unified School District was awarded the honor for employing innovative strategies by collaborating with local partners to provide nutrition education and physical activities at summer meal sites. The Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Idaho was also awarded the distinction for their incorporation of fresh local produce into summer meals and offering opportunities for physical activity to children at their summer meal sites. Read more »

USDA Foods Hatches New Chicken Product for Schools

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

School lunches have evolved since many of our childhood days to keep pace with new dietary guidelines and school meal patterns, but one food has been an enduring component: chicken.  The popular protein graces the center of the plate in a variety of forms and flavors, and the new USDA Foods unseasoned chicken strip provides school nutrition professionals with a versatile and healthy option to add to their recipes.  USDA develops new products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) based on feedback from states and school districts.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how chicken flies the coop from farms to a pilot program to cafeterias across the country.

Did you know that on any given day, USDA Foods comprise 15 to 20 percent of the value of food served on the lunch line, or that the School Year 2015 Foods Available List contains more than 200 options?  For more than 70 years, USDA has provided states with 100 percent American grown food for school lunches to support the dual mission of strengthening our nutrition safety net and supporting American agriculture.  The unseasoned, non-breaded chicken strip is just the latest contribution to a long history of providing nutritious foods for school meals. Read more »

Meet Your Wellness Goals in the New Year with the USDA DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals App

USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals app screenshot

New “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations based on the DRI values.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s (NAL) Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) today launched its mobile application, or “app,” which calculates Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  The “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations that are based on the DRI values in a more convenient and user-friendly format. Through this new app, healthcare professionals can save time in the nutrition care process for patients and clients, while having access to credible nutrition guidance.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine first developed the DRIs in the mid-1990s. DRIs are recommended amounts of each nutrient a healthy person should consume to prevent deficiency or harmful health effects. Initially presented in tables, this information allows healthcare professionals to use the DRIs to assess and plan diets for groups or individuals. For example, if you are a female between 19 and 50, your registered dietitian or doctor may recommend that you increase your dairy consumption to meet the 1,000mg/day calcium recommendation outlined in the DRIs. The DRIs are also used in policy-making such as setting calorie and sodium guidelines for healthy school lunches. Read more »

Culinary Boot Camps: Designed to Foster a Healthier Next Generation

USDA Team Nutrition grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits.

USDA Team Nutrition grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals 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

By Stewart Eidel, School and Community Nutrition Programs, Maryland State Department of Education

USDA Team Nutrition Grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits. Thanks to this funding, and by incorporating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and with recipes from the Food and Nutrition Service Team Nutrition website, Maryland’s State Department of Education School and Community Nutrition Programs, where I work, developed new training for our school food service professionals called “Culinary Boot Camps.” Read more »

South Carolina Features Supreme Chicken Sandwich in School Lunch

According to Food Service Director, Todd Bedenbaugh, “since the cafeterias begun promoting Supreme Chicken, sales for this ‘local protein source’ have increased by 25 percent.”

According to Food Service Director, Todd Bedenbaugh, “since the cafeterias begun promoting Supreme Chicken, sales for this ‘local protein source’ have increased by 25 percent.”

It’s not surprising that chicken, the most popular meat for kids, is being served in school cafeterias across the nation.  However, in Columbia, S.C., locally sourced chicken has taken center stage on school meal trays in an effort to increase the state’s Farm to School programming.

South Carolina’s District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties Schools are piloting a poultry project to expand local products offered to students.  In partnership with Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the school district is offering a variety of locally produced products to their students.

This particular Farm to School Program is made possible through the collaboration of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Department of Education, and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute.

By Holly Godwin, South Carolina Farm to Institution Program Director

During the 2013-2014 academic school year, 20 District Five schools of Lexington and Richland Counties (South Carolina) participated in the Supreme Chicken project.  This included all 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools. Read more »

USDA… Helping Produce Businesses Meet Consumer and Retailer Demand

Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.

Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.

Ensuring that its food meets the demands of its retailers and the consumers who eat it is essential to the success of any produce business. This builds consumer trust and helps retailers confidently supply the food we all eat. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers audits through the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) & Good Handling Practices (GHPs) Audit Verification Program.

A voluntary service provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), GAPs audits verify that fruits and vegetables are grown, packed, handled, and stored safely. The audits certify that operations are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and industry-recognized food safety practices that can minimize the risks of food-borne illnesses. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division employees accomplish this through activities like evaluating food safety plans, walking the farm looking for food safety risks and performing unannounced visits to farms and facilities. The audits focus on waste management, such as animal manure; water quality; wildlife; and worker health and hygiene. Read more »