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Category: Food and Nutrition

Tales from a School Food Service Director: It’s all about the Brand

Andover High School's school meal staff serving up food samples

Andover High School's school meal staff serving up samples of their nutritious and delicious foods.

This guest blog showcases the success story of a school food service director in an upper-class suburb of Boston.  The director discusses some of the creative methods her school meal program uses to boost participation and, thereby, promote health and nutrition in their district.

By Gail Koutroubas, School Food Service Director in Andover, MA

For 10 years, I’ve been a school food service director at Andover School District in Massachusetts.  My district of 5,900 students lies in an upper-class suburb of Boston. The median income is approximately $140,000 with just 7 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunch. Read more »

Next Steps for Team Up for School Nutrition Success

Teams sharing menu planning alternatives during training

Teams share menu planning alternatives during training.

Over the past year, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partnered with the Institute for Child Nutrition (ICN) to host seven regional workshops called Team Up for School Nutrition SuccessThe two day, face-to-face workshops used a research-based mentorship model to educate and empower school nutrition professionals around the country. Each training was tailored to the specific needs of that region. Topics included everything from menu planning to financial management and meal presentation. Participants shared challenges and solutions, identified program strengths, and developed action plans for implementing their new ideas.

Thanks to the Team Up for School Nutrition Success training, the participants reported they can now: Read more »

Taste Fall Flavors with “Simply Soup” at the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, October 16th

USDA Farmers Market at Night Simply Soup poster

Join us for the last USDA Farmers Market at Night this Friday, October 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup in the fall. Our vendors are serving soups, stews, and chilis from all over the globe at the last USDA Farmers Market at Night this Friday, October 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  From spicy Lao rice vermicelli soup to a Scottish soup dish of chicken and leeks, vendors will be serving cozy soups filled with fall favorites like apples, butternut squash, and chile peppers.  With more than 15 different choices, you will be challenged to find a favorite! Read more »

Top Chef’s Carla Hall Supports a Healthier Next Generation. See How!

Baked parmesan fish, butternut squash with black beans, honey lemon chicken… No, these aren’t items on a high-end restaurant menu.  They’re delicious dishes being offered in America’s school lunchrooms! This National School Lunch Week, we’re celebrating school meal programs around the country and renewed efforts to provide nutritious and appetizing meals featuring more fruits and vegetables and whole grains with less calories, sodium, and trans fats.  As a result of school nutrition professionals’ hard work, our kids’ meals are healthier than ever before.  And USDA research confirms that children who participate in the National School Lunch Program are more likely to consume fruits, vegetables, milk, and other important components of a healthy diet than their peers. Read more »

During National Farm to School Month, USDA Celebrates Grantees’ Accomplishments and a New Office

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serving up a local lunch, including kale

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.

Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.

A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »

Celebrate National School Lunch Week 2015

Students, school staff and teachers celebrating National School Lunch Week

Students, school staff, teachers, and the entire community celebrate National School Lunch Week.

The fall season has arrived and with it the National School Lunch Week celebration! During the second week of October, USDA recognizes the important role school meal programs play in providing healthy, appetizing foods to their students. Over the last several weeks, USDA leaders visited schools to experience their meal programs first hand. And they were quite impressed! Now more than ever, today’s schools encourage healthy choices by featuring creative dishes and a variety of fruits and vegetables. USDA also got the chance to tour school gardens that harvest fresh ingredients and allow students to learn where their food comes from. It was exciting to see the many ways schools get students excited about health and nutrition and the important strides made to secure a healthier next generation.

After only three years since the updated nutrition standards were implemented, more than 96 percent of schools nationwide are meeting the standards.  The impact is nothing short of inspiring. School lunch revenue has increased by up to $450 million; teachers report that students are more attentive in the classroom; and a Harvard study found students are now eating more fruits and vegetables! Read more »