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Category: Food and Nutrition

School Lunch Equipment Grants Help Provide Healthier Meals to Students Nationwide

Flowing Wells employee using the oven unit

Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.

USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of $25 million in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) equipment grants for Fiscal Year 2015. These grants help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.

Here are some examples of how these grants have benefitted schools in the past: Read more »

School Breakfast Program Provides Increasing Number of Meals

Average Daily School Breakfast Participants, 1975-2014 chart

ERS’s Charts of Note series, like the above, provides daily snapshots of highlights from current and previous research on food assistance and other topics. Each provides a graph or map with accompanying text.

Sometimes called the “most important meal of the day” for school-aged children, breakfast is available at nearly 90,000 schools across the country courtesy of USDA’s School Breakfast Program. On an average school day in fiscal 2014, some 13.5 million students participated. The Economic Research Service (ERS) illustrates the growth of the program in a new entry in its popular daily “Charts of Note” series. As the chart indicates, participation has more than doubled since 1996.

The School Breakfast Program, permanently authorized in 1975, is newer than the arguably-more-renowned National School Lunch Program, established nearly three decades earlier in 1946. The statistics tell an interesting story. Throughout the history of the School Breakfast Program, the number of participating children was considerably smaller than in the National School Lunch Program and is still less than half. Nevertheless, as the breakfast program funding increased—and grants to schools to help start up the program became more available—the number of schools participating in the breakfast program has steadily grown, making it available to more students. Read more »

What’s Shaking in School Meals?

What's Shaking infographic

USDA’s What’s Shaking? resources offer creative ways to boost flavor with less sodium. (Click to enlarge)

What’s shaking in USDA’s school meals programs?  Delicious and nutritious food, that’s what!  Healthy food does not have to be bland or boring.  There’s more to creating a tasty meal than just dousing food in dressing or layering on salty sauces.  It’s easy to make your dish pop without adding excess sodium.  Many schools around the country have figured out creative ways to serve low-sodium meals that maximize taste.  So what can you do this school year to “spice” things up and take school meals to the next level? Read more »

“Fuel Up to Play 60″ Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visiting Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visits Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture during the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few. Read more »

USDA’s National Agricultural Library Launches New Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection

Fresh cut fruits and vegetables

Fresh cut fruits and vegetables. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA-ARS.

USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) has launched a fascinating online collection of historical diet and nutrition publications issued by the U.S. Government. The Historical Dietary Guidance Digital Collection (HDGDC) combines more than 900 documents representing over 100 years of history. Through this digital collection, users can explore the evolution of American food, diet and nutrition, reflecting the most current science of the time. This unique resource is the first of its kind to offer comprehensive online access to historical government nutrition publications. Read more »

Seminole Sprint Puts the FUN back in Fundraising

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 Tom Adam, Physical Education Teacher and Wellness Champion at Spout Springs School of Enrichment

Those of us who work in schools know that the lunch line is not the only place where kids get their calories at school. That’s why we were pleased to see the USDA Smart Snacks in School standards go into effect last summer, which applied to food and beverages sold outside of the school meals program, including in-school fundraisers.

Spout Springs School of Enrichment wasn’t worried about meeting the new standards. For the past few years, our school traded food-based fundraisers for our annual Seminole Sprint, a fun run organized by our Parent Teacher Organization, which has raised more than $40,000 in one day to benefit our school! Read more »