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Category: Food and Nutrition

Jackson-Madison County Schools Demonstrate the Power of Youth Engagement

Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System

Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System

In today’s installment of our Cafeteria Stories series, we highlight the innovative and successful school nutrition strategies that a Tennessee school district is using to positively impact the health of our next generation.  I believe very strongly in the power of student engagement, and the Jackson-Madison County School District is expertly tapping into that resource.  By empowering students and integrating them into the program structure, they have altered food culture and made the healthy choice the desirable choice within and outside of the school walls.  We thank them for sharing their story!

Guest Blog By: Susan Johnson, School Nutrition Director of Jackson-Madison County School System

Sometimes I hear people say that kids don’t like the healthy foods they are served at school, but what I see every day in the 27 schools that make up the Jackson-Madison County School System tells me otherwise. My staff and I see our students choosing to not only eat, but also grow fruits and vegetables, and educate others about the benefits of making healthy choices daily.

At our schools, we are committed to maintaining high standards for the food that we serve to students so that they can flourish in and outside of the classroom. In 2008, our district set minimum nutrition standards for food offered to students in grades PreK-8, which put us on the right track to comply with the USDA’s school meals standards and the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, which went into effect this summer. Enrolling in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program provided us with specific tools, such as the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, that enabled us to not only meet, but exceed, federal standards at our schools today. Read more »

Summer Food Service Program Meals with a Healthy Southern Twist

Mobile County’s Super Food Express bus travels from nine to 12 schools to ensure their children are fed healthy meals when school is out of session.

Mobile County’s Super Food Express bus travels from nine to 12 schools to ensure their children are fed healthy meals when school is out of session.

Fried chicken, sausage biscuits and fried okra are a thing of the past in the Mobile County (AL) Public School Service’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), explained Child Nutrition Director of MCPSS, Susanne Yates.

“The program is providing nutritional meals that are still southern in style but meet the new nutritional standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  We rely on southern staples such as steamed mixed vegetables, whole grain cereals and baked chicken.  Fried foods have been replaced with more nutritious fruits and vegetables and have not been a part of the meal service since 2006.” Read more »

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »

How FNS Partners Take Their Summer Feeding Sites to the Next Level

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partners serve a vital role in the success of the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  These important relationships are critical to helping operate and expand summer meals and sites so that no child or teen goes hungry when school is out.

Evaluating their best practices and listening to their anecdotes confirms that kids truly depend on these healthy meals over the course of the summer.  During the first day of the summer feeding program, the Hopkins County Family YMCA in Kentucky served over 500 meals.  But that’s not the only difference they made that day.  The director was at the store picking up supplies, when the cashier asked about her purchase.  The director explained the details of the program and the woman’s eyes filled with tears, as she relayed that her husband just lost his job and the family had become desperate.  She was put at ease knowing that the Summer Food Service Program will be available to feed her children this summer. Read more »

North Carolina Campus Kicks off the School Year with a Focus on Healthy Eating

UNCW Peer Educator and MyPlate On Campus Ambassador, Jessica Jones, teaches a fellow Seahawk about healthy eating using food models and the MyPlate icon.

UNCW Peer Educator and MyPlate On Campus Ambassador, Jessica Jones, teaches a fellow Seahawk about healthy eating using food models and the MyPlate icon.

As a registered dietitian, I’m a big proponent of nutrition education for kids and adults alike. MyPlate On Campus, USDA’s initiative that promotes healthy eating on college campuses through peer-to-peer education, is a unique effort to reach young adults during a key life stage. The program now boasts over 2,300 MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors who inspire and promote healthy food habits at universities and colleges nationwide. Read below about how one North Carolina campus brings MyPlate to life for their students:

Guest post by Courtney Simmons, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, Campus Dietitian, and Jessica Jones, Peer Educator, Health Promotion, University of North Carolina Wilmington

College – a time of transition, not only in an academic sense, but also in a personal “taking charge of your own health” sense. Most first year students are thinking about all the choices they get to make without guardian oversight, including their food choices! They can now choose what and when to eat and drink for themselves. Mom and Dad are no longer telling them to “stop with the junk food,” “clean the plate,” or “eat their veggies”. Although this seems like the ultimate dream come true and the bells of freedom are ringing, students without the knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices may not be getting all the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy! Read more »

USDA Partners with Community, Farmers Market in Eastern Kentucky: To Feed Kids and Help Farmers

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

This week marks the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week and USDA is celebrating the achievements of the more than 8,700 markets across the county. In rural eastern Kentucky, over the summer, a remarkable thing happened in the small community of Whitesburg. Local, state and federal officials all worked together to create the first-ever USDA “Summer Feeding Site” for children to be held at a local farmers market in Kentucky.

The Summer Feeding Site project that was launched in Whitesburg is part of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program that provides free meals to children from low-income households. Over the summer break, many of these kids and teens are in danger of not eating properly or going hungry because they don’t have access to school meals. Read more »