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Category: Food and Nutrition

National School Lunch Week Offers a Time to Celebrate Children’s Health

On Friday, President Obama recognized October 12-18 as National School Lunch Week with an official proclamation.  The message thanks hardworking school food service professionals, the tireless staff who demonstrate a daily commitment to providing schoolchildren with proper nutrition to enrich their lives in the classroom and beyond.

Since President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946, schools have served more than 220 billion lunches!  Meals that have enabled scores of American children the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive.  And with more than 30 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, balanced meals at school play a key role in fostering a healthier next generation. Read more »

Bringing You Food and Fiber to Fit Your Active Lifestyle

America's ag promotion groups are dedicated to helping fuel and inspire active, health-conscious consumers. Photo courtesy of AMS.

America's ag promotion groups are dedicated to helping fuel and inspire active, health-conscious consumers. Photo courtesy of AMS.

If you’ve learned how to cut a mango from a magazine article, read about new fabrics on a website or heard about nutrition research on almonds from a health reporter on TV, chances are one of America’s ag promotion groups made that information possible and available. From the clothes you wear to the food you eat, these groups are leading efforts to research and promote food and fiber that fits your lifestyle. Read more »

Commemorating the History of SNAP: Looking Back at the Food Stamp Act of 1964

President Johnson signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964.

President Johnson signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964.

On August 31, 1964, President Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964 as a centerpiece of his War on Poverty, which introduced numerous programs designed to improve the American quality of life for those struggling to make ends meet.  Due to the Food Stamp Act of 1964, the Food Stamp Program, now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), became permanent. This action and others, such as the establishment of the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (a program celebrating 40 years this year), resulted in marked improvement in the diets of the poor during the late 1960 and into the mid 1970s.  Media and public leaders like Robert Kennedy, Senator Robert Dole and Senator George McGovern shone a light on areas of America where hunger and malnutrition had previously been easy to miss, such as crowded urban centers and the tranquil rural countryside, and the programs responded. Read more »

Empowering Students to Make the Healthy Choice the Right Choice

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 Victoria Wittrock, Food Service Supervisor, West Central School District, South Dakota

I’ve seen a lot of great changes come about in the West Central School District since the implementation of the new school meal pattern in 2012, and I’m very grateful for the process we’ve gone through.

The changes in the younger kids have been the most noticeable. Exposing them to more fruits and vegetables has been really exciting. When we first began introducing new fruits and vegetables, I was surprised that some kids had never had cantaloupe or honeydew melons. Now, I go to the local market and I see students there pointing out fruits and vegetables and telling their parents, “Mom, Dad, you’ve got to try this!” The younger kids now ask me about proteins, grains, and what other types of nutrients they need. Read more »

USDA Committee Gives Produce Industry a Powerful Voice

The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee had its first meeting Sept. 29-30 in Crystal City, Va. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

The USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee had its first meeting Sept. 29-30 in Crystal City, Va. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

The fall harvest is upon us, and people all over the world are enjoying the abundance of quality fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.  The specialty crop industry is important to USDA and plays a crucial role in the country’s economy, generating $65 billion in sales and creating more than 900,000 jobs. We recently met with the leaders of this key sector during last week’s session of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (FVIAC).

As part of our mission to facilitate the efficient and fair marketing of U.S. agricultural products, my agency – USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – oversees the FVIAC, which meets approximately twice a year to develop recommendations on how USDA can better support the fruit and vegetable industry. Read more »

“True Food” and True Fun in Minneapolis

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest.  We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race.  Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!

Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »