Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Durfee Students Learn Healthy Habits in the Garden, Classroom, and Cafeteria

Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry

Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry

Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California.  Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with school gardening, and how gardening helps to transform the food culture among students who were previously unaware of the origins of food.  His district is making great strides in improving the school nutrition environment, thanks in part to support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

By: Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District

The majority of the more than 1,000 students that attend Durfee School—part of El Monte School District, east of Los Angeles, California—have lived their entire lives in urban neighborhoods without access to farms or fields. It’s ironic that our school is named after James R. Durfee, a rancher and farmer who grew vegetables, grain, walnuts, and fruit. But until several years ago, Durfee students didn’t know where food came from, aside from the supermarket or the corner store.

When we joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and decided to improve the healthfulness of the food we serve to our students, we started by getting our hands dirty. As the director of nutrition services for El Monte School District I knew that kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process and learn why it is important. I invited local farmers to school to plant seedlings with the students. Once kids saw how broccoli or red cabbage grows, you can bet they wanted to taste them both in the garden and in the cafeteria. Read more »

New State-of-the-Art School Complex on the Warm Springs Reservation Celebrates Traditions, Nurtures Young Learners

Students perform a traditional dance at the school’s dedication.

Students perform a traditional dance at the school’s dedication.

As young learners of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon walk through the doors of their new school this month, they will become part of a new history of education ideals and community collaboration that will ensure their future success and well-being.

The new Warm Springs Academy, funded in part with a Community Facilities loan from USDA Rural Development and part by Jefferson County, replaces a cramped and neglected 1930s school building with a state-of-the-art complex featuring modern science and computer labs, art and music rooms, a gymnasium, a large gathering place for the cafeteria and kitchen, and many cultural features that celebrate the tribal community’s heritage and traditions. Read more »

Making Strides with School Meals

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! Read more »

New Fences Keep Cattle In, But Allow Elk & Wildlife to Move Freely

Ryan Murray, NRCS rangeland management specialist, inspects a wildlife-friendly fence installed on John Nunn’s ranch in Albany County, Wyoming.

Ryan Murray, NRCS rangeland management specialist, inspects a wildlife-friendly fence installed on John Nunn’s ranch in Albany County, Wyoming.

Long-time rancher John Nunn’s land is near a route where pronghorn migrate. His ranch is surrounded by woven fences, and although the pronghorn can sometimes find a way through, he wanted to ease access for them.

 “We found they would go a certain path, and we didn’t want to jeopardize that,” Nunn said. Read more »

Northeast Climate Hub, University Partners, to Assist Producers and Land Managers Adapt to Climate and Weather Variability

As Director of the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, I am pleased to announce new partnerships with 12 land grant universities. This partnership effort will give the region’s farmers, foresters, and land managers better access to information and tools for adapting to climate and weather variability.

The Northeast Climate Hub is one of seven hubs around the country formed to address increasing climate and weather related risks to agriculture such as devastating floods, crippling droughts, extreme storms, fires, and invasive pests. Read more »

New Mexico: A Rich Cultural History of Farming and Ranching

Just in time for football season and fall – New Mexico leads the nation in chili pepper acreage.  Check back next Thursday for more fun facts about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Just in time for football season and fall – New Mexico leads the nation in chili pepper acreage. Check back next Thursday for more fun facts about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Farming has been a part of New Mexico as far back as 2,500 years ago beginning with the Mogollon people who grew corn, squash and beans. Throughout history, American Indians, Spanish explorers and Anglo pioneers all played key roles in shaping what you see in our state’s agriculture today. Read more »