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Category: Food and Nutrition

June is Dairy Month – a Time to Say Thanks to America’s Milk Producers

Roger Erickson takes pride in the success of his dairy operation in Clark County, Wis. NRCS photo.

Roger Erickson takes pride in the success of his dairy operation in Clark County, Wis. NRCS photo.

The next time you eat a cheese sandwich, drink a glass of cold milk, have an ice cream cone or a cup of yogurt on a walk through the park, thank the dairy farmers who made it all possible.  Now is a great time to do that because June is Dairy Month.

The dairy industry is an important economic engine in America. The farm value of milk production is second only to beef among livestock industries and is equal to corn. Milk is produced in all 50 states, with the major producing states in the West and North. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family-owned and managed, are generally members of producer cooperatives. Read more »

The Win-Win Situation of Selling Food to USDA

Bill Smittcamp (center), pictured here with his son, Blake, and grandson is president of Wawona Frozen Foods. “USDA has always been very supportive and open to working with small business and the fruit and vegetable industry as a whole,” said Smittcamp, “They listen to our concerns and work with us. The ability to have a conversation with an organization like USDA gives us confidence in our ability to grow our business.”

Bill Smittcamp (center), pictured here with his son, Blake, and grandson is president of Wawona Frozen Foods. “USDA has always been very supportive and open to working with small business and the fruit and vegetable industry as a whole,” said Smittcamp, “They listen to our concerns and work with us. The ability to have a conversation with an organization like USDA gives us confidence in our ability to grow our business.”

USDA’s purchase programs were created to support our nation’s farmers through the purchase of domestic products and to increase Americans’ access to nutritious food.  Many businesses who sell to USDA find that the programs also create other opportunities for growth.

Companies like Wawona Frozen Foods have used the Commodity Purchase Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), as a reliable outlet for their products.  The consistent opportunities offered through government contracting allowed them to eventually expand into commercial foodservice and retail markets.  For nearly 20 years, Wawona competitively bid for contracts and provided quality, nutritious foods to USDA programs. As a dependable USDA vendor, they supply more than 50 million frozen fruit cups to the National School Lunch Program each year. Read more »

Let’s Move Outside All Summer Long

Unplug is a public service campaign of the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council.

Unplug is a public service campaign of the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council.

Summer is fast approaching but packing up the kids to head outside could be daunting, especially for those whose experience with outdoor activities is limited.

But don’t worry. With a little help and some simple planning, the whole crew will want to unplug and find activities that will invigorate not just the body, but the mind. The opportunities to show our kids how to eat healthy and be active can stay with them for a life time. Young children and the young at heart will enjoy summer days filled with picnics and outdoor barbecues that create great memories. Read more »

Creating a Healthier Next Generation and Supporting a Healthier School Day

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, students across America are being served meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy.  Parents can send their kids to school knowing that the healthy habits they teach at home are being reinforced at school, with breakfast and lunch menus that provide more of the foods we should eat, and less of the foods that we should avoid.

Parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, communities, and policy makers are working hard to make sure that school environments support a healthier next generation. Read more »

The Healthy Eating Index: How does America Score?

The Healthy Eating Index logo.

The Healthy Eating Index logo.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Have you ever heard of the Healthy Eating Index? The Healthy Eating Index (HEI) measures the quality of Americans’ food choices. At USDA we use the HEI to see how closely Americans are following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. The HEI assigns scores to diets on a scale in which the maximum score of 100 indicates that the diet meets all Dietary Guidelines recommendations. The HEI shows us that the diets of most Americans could use some improvement. For example, HEI scores for 2007-08 averaged about 53.5 points out of 100 points, and these scores have not changed substantially since 2001-02. Using the HEI we can also compare how food choices and overall diet quality differ among males and females and in certain age groups, such as HEI scores for children and adolescents.

The HEI includes 12 components, each of which measures one aspect of dietary quality. These components represent all of the key Dietary Guidelines food choice recommendations. Nine of the components focus on the types of foods that Americans should eat more of, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. Three components focus on foods or nutrients that are over consumed and Americans should eat less of, including refined grains, sodium, and calories from solid fats and added sugars (empty calories). Read more »

Calling on Communities to Help Feed Children in Need

Cross-posted from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog:

With summer’s arrival, officials at the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are preparing for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

Our offices recently hosted a nationwide conference call to thank faith and community leaders for their work in this area and to inform them about efforts surrounding the SFSP this summer. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the call, challenging community leaders to strive for an aggressive, but attainable goal: serving an additional 10 million meals over the course of the summer to better reach our children in need. Secretary Vilsack discussed the need for children to be well-nourished, an essential part of our commitment to helping children learn and thrive. Read more »