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Category: Food and Nutrition

USDA Wants YOU to Serve on a Board, Committee or Council

Industry representative Katie Swinson enjoying her time in a peanut field in Duplin County, N.C.

Industry representative Katie Swinson enjoys her time in a peanut field in Duplin County, N.C., a major area for peanut production.

Why does someone choose to serve on a USDA board?  To find out, we asked several members of one important board that very question.

The Peanut Standards Board, which is overseen by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), was created by Congress to establish quality and handling standards for peanuts sold in the marketplace. Peanuts are an important agricultural commodity. According to the American Peanut Council, U.S. peanut farmers produce around 1.9 million tons of peanuts annually on approximately 1.44 million acres. In 2014 American peanut production generated an estimated $1.1 billion in revenue (NASS).   Peanut quality affects the entire industry and the Peanut Standards Board is comprised of a mix of producers and industry representatives covering the entire supply chain. This means peanut farmers, manufacturers, shellers, importers, and their representatives are all welcome to serve. Read more »

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

Stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale

A students’ favorite: stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale.

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

Community Eligibility: A Win-Win for Schools and Families in the Fight against Childhood Hunger

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch.

Every day, millions of students across the U.S. walk into school with stomachs growling because they haven’t had enough to eat either that morning or the night before and eagerly anticipate getting a school breakfast.  Hours later, when the lunch bell rings, the same students jet to the front of the line to make sure they get enough food to tide them over until their next meal. For many students, school meals are not a luxury or a backup in case they forget to pack a meal; they are a lifeline. 

At a time when 8.6 million U.S. children lack consistent access to food at home, the availability of nutritious meals at school is more important than ever. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools to not only feed more kids, but can help with the bottom line. Read more »

USDA Training Benefits Child Nutrition Program, Increases Access to Healthy Meals

Students eating breakfast in classroom

The Breakfast in the Classroom Program provides students a healthy start to their day.

The following guest blog highlights the important work of one of our nation’s many hardworking child nutrition professionals.  As a recent participant in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Thomas J. Smith learned about best practices, strategies and resources to ensure healthy meals are provided to his schools’ most needy students.

By Thomas J. Smith, Director of Child Nutrition, Archdiocese of New York – Department of Education

The primary mission of The Child Nutrition Program, at the Archdiocese of New York-Department of Education, is to ensure that healthy and nutritious meals are provided to our most needy students. Over 20,000 meals are served on a daily basis. Meals are served to our recipient agency schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York. As a result, we serve over 4-million meals between breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack and fresh fruits and vegetables each year. Read more »

Blending Up New Ways for Kids to Enjoy School Meals

A sloppy joe with vegetables

The Mushroom Council website has information to help schools incorporate mushrooms in popular meals like beef hamburgers and sloppy joes. Photo courtesy of the Mushroom Council.

Sometimes the right blend can change your perception. One of our industry research and promotion programs is remixing school meal items to help change students’ preconceptions and get them to eat healthy foods.

The Mushroom Council helped out on this front in a number of ways. The Council, which is overseen by our agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – encouraged schools to use recipes that added mushrooms to their beef burgers. By reducing some of the beef and adding the hearty texture of mushrooms, schools were able to increase student consumption of healthy meals without compromising taste. Read more »