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Category: Food and Nutrition

Reducing Sodium, Boosting Health for our Nation’s Schoolchildren

What's Shaking infographic

USDA’s new infographic depicts the public health importance of sodium reduction, and provides tips for school nutrition professionals on reducing the sodium content of school meals. (Click to enlarge)

Reducing sodium in school meals is an important part of a broader effort to scale back sodium intake for all Americans.  To that end, our nation’s school nutrition professionals are actively working to lower the sodium content in our children’s meals during the school day.  Many schools have already achieved USDA’s sodium targets, thanks to student feedback on menu planning, changes in recipes and products, and sharing best practices with their colleagues.

The benefits of reducing sodium are significant and supported by science, which indicates overconsumption can lead to heart disease and other chronic conditions.  Through the What’s Shaking? sodium reduction initiative, USDA has teamed with our partners across the country to make a healthful difference for our nation’s children and for their futures. Read more »

New Resource Provides A Key to Unlock Tips on Healthy Aging

New 10 Tips Resource, “Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older” infographic

New 10 Tips Resource, “Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older” infographic. (Click to enlarge)

Just in time for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health,  are co-publishing a new resource, “Choosing Healthy Meals as You Get Older: 10 Healthy Eating Tips for People Age 65+” to provide practical advice about enjoying healthy meals no matter what your age. Our bodies change through our 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond and making healthy food choices is a smart thing to do at any age!

As you get older, food is the best way to get nutrients you need.  It’s important to find sensible, flexible ways to choose and prepare tasty meals. Eating is more enjoyable when you are with others, so try to make your meals a social event.  There are many ways to make mealtimes pleasing. Read more »

A Case Study in Wellness at PS 145 – Supporting Schools and Supporting Nutrition Standards

WITS Chef Katie Cook and Chef Partner Henry Rinehart celebrating a WITS Cafe Day (special culinary demo and tasting days) with their students at PS145/West Prep Academy

WITS Chef Katie Cook and Chef Partner Henry Rinehart celebrate a WITS Cafe Day (special culinary demo and tasting days) with their students at PS145/West Prep Academy.

The following guest blog, part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlights the work of Wellness in the Schools, a non-profit organization working on school nutrition in New York City.  Organizations such as this can be a great resource for teachers and students in creating healthier school environments.

By Chef Greg Silverman, Managing Director, Wellness in the Schools

This year, as school came to a close, the kids at PS145/West Prep Academy in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood were feeling healthier, more fit, and more focused, thanks to two programs offered through Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a non-profit organization dedicated to making public schools healthier places to learn and grow. The programs are through WITS Cook for Kids and Coach for Kids programs, chefs and coaches support school wellness by providing staff training in the cafeteria and recess yard, and helping schools to transition to healthier meals and more active play times. Read more »

Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

Federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »

New Web Application Helps Families Find Summer Meals in Their Communities

Summer Meals Site Finder graphic

Putting hunger on vacation thanks to the new Summer Meals Site Finder tool.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.

That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them.  The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »