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Category: Food and Nutrition

Walk, Run, Ride to the First USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night poster

This Friday, the USDA Farmers Market will host its first night farmers market. Join us for live music, food trucks, and much more. We’ll provide everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall. (Click to enlarge)

For 20 years, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has managed the USDA Farmers Market.  It’s quite a milestone, and I’m thrilled to celebrate it this week by hosting the first night farmers market in Washington, DC!  There will be live music, food trucks, and an array of farmers, growers, and vendors offering cured meats, fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, cheese and dairy, and delicious baked goods—everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall!

As part of our work to support local and regional food systems, AMS is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed, including our own market in Washington, DC.  As we celebrate the USDA market’s 20th season, we are introducing night markets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 16.  Each night market will have a different theme featuring live music and educational exhibits. Read more »

Lessons Learned from a Food Service Director: Kids Like Healthy Foods

Fruits in plastic trays

In Kentucky, the Whitley County School District customizes the fruit and vegetable options served in each school, based on the preferences of those particular students.

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 Sharon Foley, Food Service Director, Whitley County School District, Kentucky

During the more than two decades I’ve worked in schools, I’ve witnessed what we now know to be true: healthy kids learn better. But I’ll also let you in on a secret: Not only are healthy foods better for our children’s long-term outcomes, kids like healthy foods! Read more »

USDA Celebrates Mothers, Farmers, and Industry Leaders

Kelly McKnight on horse

“Marketing orders keep farmers talking,” said Kelly McKnight. “Of course we have to think of our individual businesses, but it is essential we work together as well.” Photo courtesy of the Washington Potato Committee.

In honor of Mother’s Day, USDA thanks the nearly 100 wonderful women growers and handlers for dedicating their time and service to their respective industries through our federal fruit and vegetable marketing order committees and boards.  We spoke to a few about being a farmer, mother, and marketing order industry leader.

Kelly McKnight, of the Washington Potato Committee, is a mother of four and a fifth- generation farmer.  McKnight learned the ins and outs of marketing orders from her neighboring potato farmers, alongside an extended network of fellow farmers’ daughters recruited to the committee.  Although the industry is small, McKnight credits the marketing order presence and members for keeping it strong. The committee serves as a network of support, mentorship, and resources, and further builds relationships with related organizations. Read more »

Fruits and Veggies Now Chock Full of Marketing Power

This carefully chosen celebrity wants you to eat more oranges. Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, is on board with team FNV.

At CNPP, we are passionate about reaching Americans with science-based messages that encourage healthy plates because we know that far too many Americans are not eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.  MyPlate was designed to serve as a strong visual cue to remind Americans to make healthier food and beverage choices at every meal, and we love to see how other partners and organizations are getting the message out about healthy eating. Read below to learn how the Partnership for A Healthier America, a National Strategic Partner, is working with other companies and organizations to make fruits and vegetables a household brand.

Guest post by Elly Spinweber, Director of Communications, Partnership for a Healthier America

This spring, a collaboration of companies, celebrities, athletes and foundations launched FNV—a new brand focused on increasing consumption and sales of fruits and vegetables among teens and moms. Read more »

Direct Certification Improves Low-Income Children’s Access to Healthy School Meals, Boosts Program Efficiency

Students at the Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Connecticut enjoying lunchtime

Direct certification can increase access to free school meals for eligible students.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to helping America’s children get the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.  Direct certification for school meals is one important strategy to make that possible for the low-income children.  This process links student enrollment records to states’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program data, so children receiving SNAP or TANF can be directly certified for free school meals without having to submit additional paperwork through applications. 

By using data already verified through SNAP and TANF, direct certification improves efficiency and accuracy for schools.  Just as importantly, families are spared the burden of a separate meals application.  Congress made direct certification a requirement for all schools through the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. Read more »

Growing with the Times, Expanded USDA Farmers Market Opens for 20th Season

(Left to right)  Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini,  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

(Left to right) Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

This morning, Secretary Tom Vilsack and I kicked off the 20th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  It was quite a celebration, complete with balloons, ribbon cutting and bell ringing!  The market underwent a major redesign and expansion this year to make room for twice as many vendors as we’ve had in the past.  Featuring everything from fresh oysters to delicious pastries to crisp lettuce, today’s market is full of delicious offerings from local farmers, ranchers and food businesses.   

I am so proud that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, has managed this market for the past 20 years, turning it into a true gathering place for USDA and its neighbors, including Washington, D.C.-area employees, residents in Ward 2 and visitors to the National Mall.  The USDA Farmers Market also provides a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs. Read more »