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Category: Food and Nutrition

USDA Seeks Public Feedback on Policies with School Meals Charges

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren.  I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.

Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight.  Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »

Women are the Past, Present and Future of American Agriculture

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors and to feed the world.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly one million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.  These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture.  We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policy makers and standard bearers.  Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture.  Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands.  As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.

When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.

Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.

Farm to School: We Are Here to Help!

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.

One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »

Farm-to-School and School Nutrition Programs: Dedicated to Serving Healthy Fresh Food

Dunbar Elementary School students enjoying fresh, local strawberries during Delaware's Strawberry week.

Dunbar Elementary School students enjoying fresh, local strawberries during Delaware's Strawberry week.

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 Nancy R. Mears, Supervisor of School Nutrition, Delaware

Farm to School (F2S) means different things to different people depending on where you live in the country. In Delaware, utilizing F2S to source local produce allows Laurel School District to meet the fruit and vegetable requirements of the new meal pattern outlined by federal guidelines for school meals. With a little creativity, we found these guidelines can be met with this valuable resource.

Delaware’s Farm to School Program unifies 19 school districts and assists all schools in purchasing local products. F2S is an economic benefit to Delaware farmers, as well as its economy and agricultural industry. Read more »

Federal Employees Help to Knock Out Hunger

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

When I became National Program Manager for the 2014 Feds Feeds Families campaign—the sixth annual, nationwide food drive of Federal employees—I challenged Federal employees nationwide to help knock out hunger by supporting this year’s initiative.  I had every confidence that our Nation’s civil servants would step up in a huge way.  Feds have a tradition of generosity and answering the call whenever, wherever, and however they are needed.  Even so, this year’s results far exceeded my expectations:  14.8 million pounds of donated food went to food banks and pantries across the country.  That’s 7,400 tons of food this year.

Since 2009, the campaign has donated almost 39 million pounds of food to families and individuals in need.  All Federal agencies across the country participated.  Federal employees donated both perishable and non-perishable food items throughout the summer.  This year Feds Feed Families also encouraged employees to take advantage of gleaning (clearing fields of unused produce). Read more »

Variety and Consistency are the Pillars to CentroNia’s “Eat Healthy, Live Healthy” Program

A student from DC Bilingual Public Charter School enjoys a taco.

A student from DC Bilingual Public Charter School enjoys a taco.

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 Bea Zuluaga, Food and Nutrition Director, CentroNía/DC Bilingual Public Charter School, Washington, DC

Children living in Washington, D.C., and across the country spend a large part of their day in school and rely heavily on their educational institutions for nourishment. As educators, it is imperative that we expose children to a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods early on in their development, and CentroNía does just that! We prepare various meals and snacks to support children’s learning thanks to programs such as the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

With more than 260 employees who serve 2,500 children, youth, and families in the District of Columbia and Maryland, CentroNía’s mission is to educate children and youth, and strengthen families in a bilingual, multicultural community. We cook meals and prepare snacks on the premises that incorporate whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, more vegetarian proteins and local produce.  By eliminating processed foods and juices from our institution, we drastically reduced the sugar and sodium on our menus. Read more »