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Recognizing Champions of Change: Strengthening Food Security at Home and Abroad

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of congratulating 11 extraordinary individuals being recognized through the White House Champions of Change program for their work to tackle hunger in the United States and abroad.

The Champions recognized today are making improved access to healthy food a reality for millions of individuals in need. Innovative programs like the Community Food Advocates in New York City, Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables in Chicago, and the Mandela Marketplace in Oakland, California are helping to empower families and communities and reducing the depth and severity of hunger in America. And the work of organizations like Thriive, Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, and Catholic Medical Mission Board are taking on the fight against hunger worldwide. Read more »

With Apologies to the Teacher, Local Apples Head Straight for the Cafeteria

An apple for the teacher? Yes, and the cafeteria too.

Classic images of eager children handing perfect apples to their teacher abound. In the idealized imagery, the apples are often shiny, red, and round. And if you are angling for a good grade, or really like your teacher, the apples are big. But in New Hampshire it was “school boy” apples, the small ones 2 – 3 inches in diameter, which launched an impressive farm to school program.

The New Hampshire Farm to School Program (NHFTS) was established in 2003 as a pilot program funded by the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program to introduce local apples and cider into New Hampshire K-12 schools.

“We really saw the small apples as an entry point for our farm to school program. Not many supermarkets or other vendors are interested in the smaller fruit, but they are the perfect size for schools,” said Elisabeth Farrell, Sustainability Program Manager of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Read more »

Making School Days Healthier in Miami

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talk with students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012, during lunch.  (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talk with students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012, during lunch. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).

I recently had the pleasure of visiting North Beach Elementary School in Miami to recognize 177 schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District for their efforts to promote good nutrition and physical activity to their students. All 177 schools achieved Bronze Awards in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Miami-Dade now has the honor of having the second largest number of HUSSC awards in any one school district in the entire nation. Read more »

Recognizing the Importance of Grandparents

Evelyn Eagleman, 63, remembers driving the long distance off Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, Mont., to rescue her grandson when he was two. His father was serving in the military and his mother had been arrested on drug charges.  The boy needed a new start.

She brought the child home to Rocky Boy, where she and her husband, Francis, became the child’s foster parents.  Her grandson, now a teenager, will soon graduate from high school and plans to major in forestry in college.  Eagleman said she and her husband are proud of the man he has become and gives much credit to the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program at Stone Child College, in Box Elder, Mont.

“There are a lot of legal issues involved with foster parenting, and I can’t remember them all, but with this program, I know where to go for help,” she said.   “We learned about our rights as foster grandparents.” Read more »

It’s Back to School Night with the PTA… From the Comfort of Your Own Home!

The school day just got healthier! This year, thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students can expect to see healthier and more nutritious food on school lunch trays across the country.

To help navigate what these changes mean, you are invited to join National PTA President Betsy Landers, White House Chef Sam Kass, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, and USDA’s Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service Audrey Rowe for a live discussion about the exciting new meals coming to school cafeterias. Use the hashtag #schoolfoodsrule to ask questions, give feedback, or just follow along! Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Tours New York USDA-Funded College Dormitory

“Back to School Week” is often the most thrilling and the hectic time for students (As a student I have experienced this first hand). The campus atmosphere is filled with excitement, expectation and the ringing of laughter. In between purchasing textbooks and memorizing course schedules students are busy reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, getting involved in campus activities and moving into their dorms.  For many students in rural areas, these activities fade at the end of the day as they return home.  However, there is a growing movement amongst rural community colleges to extend the college experience.

Colleges like Fulton-Montgomery Community College (FMCC) are offering dormitory housing to students.  Students living on campus is common place at major colleges and universities however, is seldom seen in rural community colleges.  This is changing.  During a recent tour promoting “Back to School Week”  Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien discovered first hand just how so. Read more »