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Category: Food and Nutrition

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Amidst nutrition facts, ingredient lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for products.  Understanding what the organic label means can help shoppers make informed purchasing choices.

Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – enforces the organic regulations, ensuring the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal. Read more »

Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners. Read more »

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care New materials available as part of Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care

From the foods we serve to the conversations we share, involving young children in mealtimes creates a positive eating environment for everyone to enjoy. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides almost 4 million nutritious meals and snacks each day to children and adults in child care and group day care settings. These mealtimes provide a tremendous opportunity to help children establish healthy eating habits. CACFP providers are engaging children in cooking, serving, and other mealtime activities as a way to get children interested in new foods and to encourage healthful eating behaviors. 

On July 20, 2016, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) addressed these important topics by adding two new supplemental materials to an existing, comprehensive resource for CACFP providers, Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The new supplements, Create a Positive Meal Environment and Support Family Style Meals, offer fun ways child care providers can continue to create positive meal environments and adopt family style meals with children in their care. Through these practices, child care provides can help children try new foods, recognize foods from different food groups in a meal, and practice table manners. Both additions also offer tips and suggestions for including nutrition education activities during and outside of mealtimes.  Read more »

Promoting Healthy Choices Throughout the School Day

Promoting Healthy Choices Throughout the School Day

Promoting Healthy Choices Throughout the School Day

Schools across the country are working hard to ensure students experience a healthy school environment from the moment they walk in the door until the final bell rings.  Imagine for a second that you are back in sixth grade.  In health class, you’re learning about the food groups and how to eat a balanced diet.  During P.E. class, your teacher stresses the importance of exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle.  School breakfast and lunch included colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.  In between periods you are hungry for an afternoon snack from the school’s vending machine. Your eye catches a glimpse of a flashy picture of a bottle of water with a logo down the side of the vending machine, and you think to yourself that water would be a great thirst quencher. Still, you scan the vending machine and see that your options are bottles of water, 100 percent juices, and unsweetened tea—all healthy options! You are thrilled that the school is supporting your resolve to maintain a healthy lifestyle by making healthy choices so readily available. Feeling good about the choices you’ve made so far that day, you are able to choose a healthy snack to compliment the healthy meals you have eaten throughout the day. Read more »

A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Organic "dinosaur" kale grown at Ground Stew Farms in San Martin, Monterey County, CA

AMS plays an integral role by providing organic data, standards, and other resources to small producers and consumers across the country.

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010. Read more »

Breaking Down Barriers to Address Food Insecurity

A woman checking food

USDA engages in extensive partner engagement and collaboration with both traditional and non-traditional partners, including tribal organizations.

No American should have to go hungry.  USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs make great strides in reaching those in need, but challenges and barriers persist to eradicating food insecurity in our nation.  That’s where leadership and partnerships come into play.

Earlier this month, FNS had the opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion on the obstacles faced on effectively communicating to specific populations at the 2016 Feeding America Annual Conference in Chicago.  The dialogue focused on reaching the most vulnerable Americans: those in Tribal communities, teens and our nation’s proud military veterans.  The hurdles to reach all three are unique, and strategies require nuance, understanding and a bold commitment to better connect individuals with nutrition assistance information. Read more »