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Posts tagged: Back to School

USDA’s Commitment to Quality Foods

USDA Specialty Crops Inspection team outside

“We create opportunities for American ag businesses,” said Casey Wong-Buehler, AMS Commodity Procurement Program Specialist. “Trips like this help us ensure that our procurement requirements provide a realistic framework for our vendors to successfully supply quality food.”

Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.

A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers. Read more »

Team Up Training Fosters Healthier Schools, Empowers School Nutrition Professionals

Seminole County Public Schools Fresh Fruits & Veggies

Seminole County Public Schools Fresh Fruits & Veggies Menu.

The following guest blog highlights the success story of one of our nation’s school nutrition change agents. As a recent participant and lead mentor in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Richard Miles provided best practices and strategies to ensure his peers have the tools they need to manage successful school meal programs.

By Richard Miles, Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness, Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools

The Team Up for School Nutrition Success training was an experience that provided me with valuable tools, resources and networking opportunities, along with the motivation and confidence to empower school nutrition professionals, like myself, to create positive changes in our schools and communities. Read more »

Back to School Checklist: Fruits and Veggies

A girl eating an apple on the Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs poster

USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.

Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.   

So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »

Taking Note of Paper’s Popularity

Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign infographic

Through its Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign, the Paper and Packaging Board reminds us of the many ways we are connected to paper. Photo courtesy of the Paper and Packaging Board. (Click to enlarge)

Kindle, iPad, and Surface—oh my! It’s fascinating to think about the increasing number of electronic tablets in the marketplace. However, a recent survey suggests that students and educators alike grab another notepad when it comes to comprehending what they’ve read. And that notepad is made of paper.

In fact, 74 percent of college educators surveyed in the 2015 Annual Back to School Report said that their students are more likely to stay focused when they are using a notebook and textbook rather than a laptop. Almost 80 percent of the K-12 teachers in this same survey also said that their students comprehend information better when they read on paper. As such, 63 percent of the teachers surveyed indicated that their courses involved paper-based learning. Read more »

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 »

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 »