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Category: Food and Nutrition

USDA Farmers Market at Night is Back – Every Friday, June to September, 4-7 P.M.

People at the market's community table

Folks grab a seat at the market’s community table. The Farmers Market at Night is a great place to try new foods and enjoy the sights and sounds of the National Mall. USDA Photo by Richard Tyner.

We can’t think of a better way to spend time after a long day of work then by relaxing on the National Mall with good food, good company and good music. That’s why after piloting the first ever USDA Farmers Market at Night last year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has decided to bring back the USDA Farmers Market at Night! It’s an opportunity for people all ages to connect with food and agriculture in a very unique setting.

Visitors can purchase food and enjoy a picnic right next to the market in the Headquarters People’s Garden. The garden is tended to by USDA employee volunteers and produces vegetables and fruits for donation to a local community kitchen. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic blanket but don’t worry if you forget – seating as well as picnic blankets are available in the garden. Read more »

Know Where Your Food Comes From with USDA Foods

USDA Foods Map

Map of the dollar value of USDA Foods purchased in FY 2014; icons represent the states that are the largest sources of a particular type of USDA Foods. (Click to view a larger version)

Do you know where your food comes from?  If you can pinpoint where your food was grown and produced, you can make more informed decisions to maximize quality, freshness, and nutritional value.  You can also help support local economies through your purchases.  The USDA Foods program takes this mantra to heart and publishes state of origin reports with procurement information on all USDA Foods every year.  As we like to say at FNS, “All USDA Foods are local to someone.”

USDA Foods are 100 percent American grown and produced.  Each year, USDA procures more than 200 types of food, including meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, flour, cereals, and dairy products, totaling approximately $2 billion.  Organizations such as food banks, disaster and emergency feeding organizations, Indian Tribal Organizations, schools, and other feeding groups receive these USDA Foods for use in meal service or distribution to households through programs like the National School Lunch Program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Read more »

Schools across America Honored for Their “One in a Melon” Farm to School Programs

A girl working in the garden

Farm to school programs help kids form healthy habits, learn where their food comes from, and develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and agriculture.

Back in March, we invited you to vote for the school district with your favorite farm to school program – one with exemplary initiatives, inspiring results; one that you think is ‘one in a melon’!

Well, the results were tabulated and one district in each state has just received the “One in a Melon” award.  These districts received the most votes from parents, teachers, community stakeholders, students, and others who recognized the incredible work they’re doing through their farm to school programs. We were so inspired by the nominations we received that we wanted to share a few quotes of them with you, but for a full list of award winners, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district. Read more »

Making Families Whole Through Disaster Response

As part of National Preparedness Month and Hurricane Preparedness Week, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) released a video featuring a team that traveled to South Carolina in October 2015 to cover the floods that affected more than half of the state. People lost their jobs, cars, and some even lost their homes. USDA takes pride in knowing that along the way we were there, along with our partners in disaster feeding, the South Carolina Department of Social Services and The Salvation Army, to help those most in need.

The team also traveled to New Jersey, a state ravaged by Hurricane Sandy and still recovering from its impact, to show how FNS’ Disaster Household Distribution Program and congregate feeding efforts were able to provide meals to more than 26,000 people. Following the recent flooding in Texas and Louisiana, the 2015 flooding in South Carolina, and Hurricane Sandy, FNS’ Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provided benefits to eligible individuals who did not qualify for regular SNAP benefits, but who experienced disaster-related expenses, such as loss of income and property. With D-SNAP these families received a little extra help to put food on the table for their families. Read more »

Local and Organic Food Shopping – Finding the Best Price

Local Certified Organic Produce Prices bar chart

A bar chart showing pricing comparisons for common organic and farmers market vegetables. Visit agriculture.vermont.gov/localfooddatatracking for the full report from agriculture.vermont.gov.

When comparing product prices between farmers markets and retail stores, local products are competitively priced – within a 10 percent price range – at farmers markets a majority of the time, even less expensive for some foods.  Local, certified organic products at farmers markets are almost always competitively priced when compared to prices at retail stores.

These are just some of the findings from a recent project conducted by the Local Foods Data Tracking Program, a joint effort between USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Market News division and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets (VAAFM).  Prices were collected on a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as a selection of meat and poultry products grown and sold in Vermont. Read more »

Concannon: Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs So They Benefit Children

Children with their school meals

School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA.

It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.

Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards.  Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children. Read more »