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Category: Food and Nutrition

“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 »

Raising the Bar: From Healthy Schools to Healthy Districts

Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen

Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit, where I met several inspiring school wellness champions who were eager to share their stories of success.  In today’s installment in our Cafeteria Stories series, Kimberly Norton, a principal of one of the schools honored at that event, shares some of her school’s award winning strategies for a healthier environment that kids truly enjoy.

By: Kimberly Norton, Principal, Northeast Elementary Magnet School

A few weeks ago, I attended the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. to receive the National Healthy Schools Gold Award for my school, Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois. The Leaders Summit brought together school leaders like me, along with business executives and community champions to celebrate our success in building healthier environments where our kids can thrive. Read more »

Helping the American Dairy Industry Thrive

USDA Dairy Program’s Roger Cryan, Director of the Economics Division (left), and Butch Speth, National Supervisor of Dairy Market News, answered questions and spoke with stakeholders at the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

USDA Dairy Program’s Roger Cryan, Director of the Economics Division (left), and Butch Speth, National Supervisor of Dairy Market News, answered questions and spoke with stakeholders at the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Last week, the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin drew more than 70,000 dairy farmers, processors and other stakeholders from across the country and around the globe. Attendees explored exhibits featuring elite dairy cattle, the latest in dairy research, the newest farm equipment and innovations from the dairy industry service sector. High school and college students—the next generation of American agriculture—explored career and internship opportunities. And people visiting the exhibit booth of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) learned about the many services we offer, and the work we do to improve and expand domestic and international markets for U.S. fluid milk and dairy products.

Our Dairy Program helps America’s dairy farmers and producers efficiently market high-quality milk and a wide range of dairy products. A prime example is our Dairy Market News and mandatory dairy commodity prices reporting. These services provide timely and accurate market information on milk and dairy products, assisting the dairy industry in making buying and selling decisions and in planning for the future. Read more »

Growing Your Farm to School Program Has Never Been Easier

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

Healthy habits are taking root in our nation’s schools.  Thanks to an important commitment made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, more of our nation’s kids are being exposed to lessons about healthy eating and learning where their food comes from.  Established as part of that legislation, USDA’s Farm to School Program plays a vital role in improving health outcomes for our schoolchildren.

This October, during National Farm to School Month, it’s important to acknowledge farm to school programs’ contributions to fostering a healthier next generation.  These programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and communities to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice for America’s children. Read more »

USDA Backs Healthy Incentives

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity.  Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often.  To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

One example of how USDA has been working to implement this cultural shift is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) project that was recently conducted in Massachusetts. The goal of this project was to provide SNAP participants greater access to healthy foods and better nutrition through financial incentives at the point of purchase.  Specifically, we tested the impact of providing families with 30 extra cents in SNAP benefits per benefit dollar that they spent on fruits and vegetables.  We were very encouraged by the results.  On average, people who received the incentives ate about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives—a substantial increase! Read more »

Successful Meeting Helps Take Produce Marketing Efforts to Next Level

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.

There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »