The term “farm to preschool” encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum. Here, USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participates in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA.
“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.
Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Read more »
Many of the quantity food service recipes found in the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl have been taste-tested and student-approved!
This is the third installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will highlight the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.
USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services is excited to have an interactive website that can help Child Nutrition professionals expand their portfolio of recipes. The newly released What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl Web site is a searchable database of recipes that can be used by school nutrition and child care center professionals in their foodservice operations.
The What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl includes more than 1,000 mouth-watering recipes that are scaled for large quantity foodservice. Most recipes for school nutrition yield 50 or 100 portions per recipe, while most recipes for child care centers yield 25 or 50 portions per recipe. So that these popular dishes can be shared with parents and prepared at home, many of these recipes are available in the household search with fewer portions per recipe. Read more »
Sarah Adler, Nevada USDA Rural Development State Director, facilitates discussion between Federal, State, food bank, and Tribal partners. Photo credit to Jenny Taylor, Nevada USDA Rural Development.
Today in Nevada more than one in four children (28 percent) live in households that cannot reliably provide nutritious meals every day. This dubious distinction makes it the state with the nation’s fourth highest rate of child hunger. And for children living on Indian reservations, the incidence of hunger may be even higher.
What does food insecurity look like on Nevada reservations? With few places to shop, reservation residents have very limited access to fresh produce. Food insecurity not only equates to a lack of nutritious foods available, but also means families must drive great distances to a grocery store. To cope, families choose more canned and frozen foods that will last until the next weekly or monthly shopping trip, which often means less consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »
Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.
USDA believes in giving children a foundation for life-long health through access to healthy food and quality nutrition education. So, that’s why we are encouraged by a couple of recent studies that indicate that the rates of obesity among young children are declining. One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that rates of obesity among young children ages 2-5 years have declined in the last decade, while another found that obesity is declining in low-income preschoolers in 19 states. These results suggest that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the health of our next generation! These findings were noted by Dr. Bill Dietz, former Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity during his presentation at the 3rd meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on March 14, 2014.
Efforts to turn the tide of obesity, both within the Federal government and in communities across the country, are having an impact in the preschool population. The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services programs are an important part of these efforts. Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, USDA is making critical changes to the foods available to children – even the picky eaters. Read more »
CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC
Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life. So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »
You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu. These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions. We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.
The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches. However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs. Read more »