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Category: Food and Nutrition

Just In: Check Out MyPlate Video Search Results

It is an exciting time for kids to get creative with nutrition! Last week, the top kid chefs from the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge were announced, and students across the country are Cooking up Change and getting connected to school food. The CheckOut MyPlate Video Search provided another opportunity for kids to showcase their creative thoughts and ideas about food and health.  

The video search was created and implemented by a group of MyPlate National Strategic Partners to help educate and empower children to take healthy eating and physical activity into their own hands and bring it to life via video. Parents and teachers of kids ages 2-18 in three age groups: (2-10, 11-13, and 14-18) were challenged to create a 60 second video demonstrating a MyPlate inspired healthy eating message and a physical activity tip. Videos were accepted March 9 through April 30, 2015. The video search resulted in over 100 submissions featuring kids across America. From the videos submitted it was clear that food and physical activity can be a fun topic for kids. Read more »

Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »

The Results Are In: Judging the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

A sample of plated dishes that were judged at the final round of judging for the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

A sample of plated dishes that were judged at the final round of judging for the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Photo Credit: Megan Smith and Chandler Ray, Dietetic Interns, University of Maryland Dietetic Internship program.

This spring, kids from across the country honed their culinary and nutrition skills to participate in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, and the wait is over to find out who received the top spot from each of the 50 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The winners of the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge have been announced on Let’s Move’s! website. Find out who the top kid chef is from your area and the recipe that secured them a seat at the White House for the Kids’ State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama.

On May 15th, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion was pleased to take part in the judging of this year’s top two recipes from each area along with representatives from Let’s Move!, the Department of Education, Wholesome Wave Foundation, and most importantly – other kids, including previous winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and recent graduates from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program. The judges met at the DC Convention Center to personally taste test each of the top dishes, 108 dishes in all! The dishes were prepared by DC Central Kitchen staff and were rated on a scale of 1-5 based on: nutritional value, taste, creativity, originality, affordability, and an essay accompanying the recipe. Kids were also encouraged to reference ChooseMyPlate.gov and incorporate foods from each of MyPlate’s five food groups in their entries. Read more »

Bringing the Farm to the City: How a Local Land Grant University is Supporting a Different Kind of Agriculture

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce being grown at the 144 Acre Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation.

This year I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of urban agriculture operations. From California to Cleveland, the ability of individuals to realize the multidimensional benefits of agricultural production and leverage them in an urban context has been nothing short of amazing.

This past week I visited a University that is heavily involved in both the research and extension aspect of urban agriculture — right in the backyard of the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation is located about 20 minutes north of the school’s D.C. campus. Upon arrival I found everything from activists passionate about learning how to best provide their neighbors with fresh produce, to researchers developing improved hydroponics systems; and even students working with community organizations on rice varieties suitable to be grown in urban areas. Read more »

Celebrating Small Cities Month

Anniston Downtown Farmers Market sign

The City of Anniston will use their 2014 AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funds to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Photo courtesy of Anniston Downtown Farmers Market.

June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work.  Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.

Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance.  Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. Read more »