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Category: Food and Nutrition

Happy Birthday! USDA Celebrates WIC Program Anniversary, Accomplishments

New moms participate in a group discussion with WIC counselor.

New moms participate in a group discussion with WIC counselor.

Birthdays are truly special occasions, celebrating a milestone of achievement. This week, USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (better known as WIC) celebrates the program’s 40th anniversary, highlighting four decades of helping improve the lives of millions of infants and children across America.

Since the first WIC clinic opened in Pineville, Ky., back in 1974, the program now provides services through almost 1,900 local agencies in all 50 states, 34 Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Read more »

Farm to School: The Taste of Washington State

Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.

Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.

Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.

Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »

#AgStrong Innovation in Rural America

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.

For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources.  Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably.  State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent. Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »

Schools Have Accepted the New Hampshire Breakfast Challenge

Lilly Ayotte, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador, talks with student at Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School in Nashua, N.H., for the "It Starts With School Breakfast" event.

Lilly Ayotte, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador, talks with student at Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School in Nashua, N.H., for the "It Starts With School Breakfast" event.

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!

By Becca Story, Nutrition Specialist for New England Dairy & Food Council

More than 200 New Hampshire schools have something new to be proud of. They have started the journey to improve the health and well-being of their student body by accepting the New Hampshire School Breakfast Challenge.

In October 2013, the NH School Breakfast Challenge partners, New Hampshire Kids Count, School Nutrition Association of New Hampshire, New England Dairy & Food Council and the NH Department of Education, challenged NH schools to increase their breakfast program participation by 25 percent over two years. Read more »

Whitefish Public Schools Take Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in Stride

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!

Whitefish Public Schools Food Service Director Jay Stagg started transitioning to more scratch cooking and using fewer processed foods when he was hired 5 years ago. So, when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) rules were implemented, it might have seemed as though they were just catching up with the improvements he had initiated.

“There weren’t too many changes needed from what I was already doing,” he said.

Before the final regulation’s effective date, Stagg had already changed over to whole-grain-rich products and reduced sodium levels. Read more »

USDA Seeks Public Feedback on Policies with School Meals Charges

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren.  I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.

Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight.  Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »