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Category: Food and Nutrition

Updated Food Purchasing System Keeps USDA on Top of its Game

USDA’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) continues to streamline food purchases for the department and all federal agencies.  New updates to the system help save time for bidders wanting to supply quality products to USDA food programs.

USDA’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) continues to streamline food purchases for the department and all federal agencies. New updates to the system help save time for bidders wanting to supply quality products to USDA food programs.

In today’s busy world of technological advances, it’s important to both evaluate the paths that have already been taken and find ways to improve upon the progress that’s already been made. This spring, we talked about how the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) streamlined the purchases for five unique agencies. Earlier this month, the system reached another milestone as it went through an update and re-launch that was on time and within budget.

The system—which was used by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and four other agencies to deliver nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods to programs—is now primed to continue serving hundreds of businesses, states, and program recipients across the country. A multi-agency team of employees worked together on programming, testing, and training, to create an updated system that provides increased flexibility and improved functionality. Read more »

Ensuring Healthy Meals during the Summer Helps Kids Head Back to Class Ready to Learn

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Gadsden ISD Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas.  He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal.  The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.

For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools.  Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday. Read more »

USDA, Department of Defense, Celebrate the Bounty of Farmers Market

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Earlier this month, USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week to highlight the healthy offerings they provide American families.  The department invests in farmers markets in a myriad of ways – from helping farmers develop their products for markets, to enriching children’s bodies and minds through the “farm to school” program.  In fact, there are more than 8,000 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and more than 5,000 farm stands and farmers markets across the nation are accepting SNAP benefits.

During the month, I had a chance to speak with Lt. Col. Eric Smith, commander of Fort Meade’s (Md.) Headquarters Command Battalion.  We discussed USDA’s partnership with the Department of Defense and supporting the Healthy Base Initiative through FNS programs.  DoD’s Healthy Base Initiative works to improve the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use. Currently, 14 military installations participate in a pilot to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles. Fort Meade is one of them. Read more »

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. Read more »

Creative Solutions to Ending School Food Waste

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium. Approximately one-third of all food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels.  While research has shown that food wasted by children is similar to the rest of the U.S. population, there are many ways schools can reduce food waste and teach students about the impact it has on the environment and in their community.

At Chesterbrook Elementary School in McClean, VA, every student learns how to separate waste into categories like recyclables, food to be donated, upcycling bins, and general trash.  The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin. The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. Read more »

Supporting WIC Breastfeeding Moms and Improving Infants’ Health

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

To highlight the importance of a healthy start in life, more than 170 countries celebrated World Breastfeeding Week earlier this month.  Themed “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life,” the recognition encourages the practice to improve the health of babies around the globe.  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) takes it a step further, recognizing the entire month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service shares this commitment.  In fact, its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (better known as WIC) promotes breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice.  We support breastfeeding among WIC moms by providing counseling and educational materials, offering healthy food packages, and giving out breastfeeding aids, like breast pumps. Read more »