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Posts tagged: Child Nutrition Reauthorization

Cooking Up Change Heats Up a Chilly November Night in Chicago

Chicago high school student chefs-in-training compete to create the healthiest, tastiest school meals at the fourth annual Cooking Up Change event held on November 4th.

Chicago high school student chefs-in-training compete to create the healthiest, tastiest school meals at the fourth annual Cooking Up Change event held on November 4th.

Last week I attended a rollicking event on Chicago’s West Side.  Healthy Schools Campaign’s Cooking Up Change event—a benefit and competition between students to create healthy and tasty school meals—was attended by over 600 enthusiastic high schoolers, community leaders, local government leaders and Chicagoans with an interest in improving school meals. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton Participates in Georgia School Nutrition Directors’ Conference

USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton smiles at Nancy Rice, Georgia Department of Education’s School Nutrition Division director, after speaking on Changing the School Nutrition Scene at Georgia’s annual School Nutrition Directors’ Conference on Sept. 30, 2010, in Athens, Ga.  Approximately 200 school nutrition directors, coordinators, nutrition specialists, trainers and state staff gave her a standing ovation.

USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Janey Thornton smiles at Nancy Rice, Georgia Department of Education’s School Nutrition Division director, after speaking on Changing the School Nutrition Scene at Georgia’s annual School Nutrition Directors’ Conference on Sept. 30, 2010, in Athens, Ga. Approximately 200 school nutrition directors, coordinators, nutrition specialists, trainers and state staff gave her a standing ovation.

I just participated in a wonderful school nutrition conference in Athens, GA that ran from September 28-30.  It was Georgia’s annual School Nutrition Directors’ Conference, and I found it to be very well organized and packed with important information. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Thornton Travels to LA High School to Discuss School Nutrition

Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

As Deputy Under Secretary, having the opportunity to visit schools all over the country is one of the best parts of my job.  I have mostly been to elementary schools, where school meal participation is generally higher than middle or high schools.  Last week, however, I had the chance to visit Garfield High School of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the country.  More than 75% of Garfield High’s students participate in the National School Lunch Program; I witnessed more than 3,100 students get served in 40 minutes—talk about efficient!  The Home-Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grain Roll was a hit.

Dennis Barrett, Director of Food Services, has done an outstanding job improving the program since he first started in 2007, with the food getting good reviews from students who like the variety of choices and find the food “nutritious and tasty.”  For example, students can choose among Sweet Potato Sticks, Café LA Tossed Side Salad, Chilled Peaches, and Chilled Orange Juice as well as non-fat, low-fat, lactose-free, and flavored milk.  Given its high participation level, the high school might apply for the Gold or Gold of Distinction award in the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge, which encourages healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

I spoke with students and officials about the President’s priorities for improving school meals.  I also emphasized the importance of renewing the Child Nutrition Act and advocated for a strong reauthorization bill to reduce hunger, combat obesity, and improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children.  One of the students suggested a Grab N Go lunch because some of the students do not have enough time to eat since some of them need to go to the library or do homework.  That was a great suggestion.  Little did the student know, I just visited Bravo Medical Magnet School of the same school district and it had a Grab N Go lunch.  The school district will work with the school to see if this program can work at Garfield High, too.

On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.
On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.

On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School.
On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School. 

On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.
On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.

My Latest Child Nutrition Reauthorization Tour Stop: Waterford, Michigan

By Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs

 I’ve had a chance to see a great deal of impressive schools during my tour of the country to speak about Child Nutrition Reauthorization.  My recent visit to Waterford Village Elementary was no exception.  Witnessing their approach to providing their students good nutrition and physical fitness activities hammers home the importance of the commitments they and those in their communities have made.

Given that reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is currently pending, I was eager to hear from students, teachers, and food service workers about how USDA can improve its programs and further support efforts like those made by this suburban Detroit school.  

I was inspired and encouraged by what I saw and heard, as well as the people I met.

For starters, I toured the school’s amazing garden with Master Gardener Kathy Wolak. Kathy demonstrated how she uses raised planters to educate students about growing and caring for vegetables. She and the school plan to expand the garden to include fruit trees and to supply the nearby cafeteria with veggies and salad fixings to bring a whole new meaning to the term “locally-grown”.  

After the garden tour, I had a tasty, freshly-prepared lunch with the veggie-lovin’ students of Waterford Village. Mary Seeterlin, Waterford’s food service manager and the School District’s Food and Nutritional Services staff have made eating lunch exciting at Waterford. Among other practices, they created a vegetable of the week program to get kids to try all sorts of new things. More than one student told me how much they like the program and I was surprised by how many kids ate fresh salads, garbanzo beans and even fresh broccoli—that’s right, fresh broccoli!  

While with the students I mentioned First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.  In return, I learned about a number of the school’s efforts to promote physical activity. A few of the students proudly displayed their enthusiasm for exercise by showing off with a few jumping jacks. They asked me to join them,  which provided one of my favorite memories of the day!  

I was inspired by so many people at Waterford that it’s difficult to name them all. 

I look forward to visiting another school in the future, to hear about their innovative practices in nutrition and physical activity.  But I’m also interested in hearing about the continued successes of Waterford Village’s amazing elementary school.  

 Student enjoying a salad at Waterford Elementary School

A Waterford Elementary School student enjoying a salad.

 Audrey Rowe jumping rope with students

Audrey Rowe exercising with students at Waterford Elementary School.

Colorado Schools Providing Nutritious Options in Their Meal Plans

By Darlene Barnes, Mountain Plain Regional Administrator, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service
Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 12, 2010

Yesterday (Wednesday) I spent the day at the beautiful Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Colorado Springs School District 11 has initiated some impressive projects when it comes to bringing healthier meals to students. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to share one of those meals with the school’s first-graders, district superintendent, and school board members during my visit.  We had a multitude of healthy choices ranging from a salad bar, whole wheat crust pizza, several varieties of fruit, and the surprise of the day – locally grown asparagus.

After lunch, I met with more than a dozen school food service directors from Colorado school districts, as well as Colorado Department of Education staff, parents, farmers, and others who make healthier school meals a reality.  I learned of important strides being accomplished through school breakfasts in the classroom, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, local wellness committees, and efforts by schools to purchase and serve local produce.

I also received feedback on how Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization can support local school districts – ideas I plan to share when I’m back in Washington, DC.  It’s hard to convey how gratifying it was to spend time with Colorado’s hard-working state and district representatives, as well as the many others doing exceptional work running school meals programs in their communities.

Colorado School Nutrition Tour  Under Secretary Janey Thornton (left) and Darlene Barnes, Administrator
of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Mountain Plains Region, chat
with children in Colorado Springs, Colo., about healthy meal choices.

USDA’s Nutrition Tour Makes a Stop in Las Vegas

Audrey Rowe, Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs
School Tours, Las Vegas, Nevada
April 26 and 28, 2010

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit two schools in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs.  As Deputy Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Special Nutrition Programs, one of my top priorities is to improve the nutrition and health of our nation’s children.

During my trip, I visited two local schools in the Clark County School District to see our child nutrition programs at work.  My first stop was Reynaldo Martinez Elementary, where I met many wonderful children during the afterschool snack program.  The children were incredibly enthusiastic to hear that I brought them greetings on behalf of President and First Lady Obama, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. To say the least, there were many hoots and hollers.  Creating even more excitement were the delicious beef tacos the children were enjoying!

This afterschool program is made possible by a fantastic partnership between Three Square Food Bank and After-School All-Stars.  With a primary focus on at-risk youth, it is a successful collaboration among different organizations to provide nutritious meals to children.  Nevada is one of only 13 states that are eligible to serve meals in afterschool programs through the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

After my visit to Martinez Elementary, I was fortunate to squeeze in a visit to Three Square’s facility—one of the largest in the state—and was amazed with the program they run.  The food bank provides afterschool meals through CACFP at nine schools and serves 130 meals to children at Martinez Elementary School each day.

The second stop on my Las Vegas school tour was Hollingsworth Elementary to see their breakfast program.   With a total of 92% of the school’s students qualifying for free or reduced price meals, both the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs provide a nutritional safety net to ensure that these students are able to have at least two nutritious meals each day.

It was such a pleasure talking to these bright students and their parents about the benefits of school meals.  Some of them told me that they were very grateful to have the breakfast program at school – and were especially happy to have a few options to choose from.

I was so happy to see students starting their day with a nutritious breakfast since we know that children learn better and are more successful in school after eating a healthy breakfast.

After the breakfast service, I had the opportunity to talk with state and school officials, as well as a state Senator, about the challenges of operating the school meals programs. I shared with them how the Administration’s proposals for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization will provide them the help they need to improve the nutritional quality of school meals and the overall health of the school environment.  And I was able to hear from them what their priorities are and what they hope to see in the reauthorization bill.

As my Las Vegas tour came to an end, I thought about all the wonderful people I had met over those two days – from teachers and principals to nonprofit workers and a state representative, and of course, all of the children.  This trip made me realize how effective a group of passionate people can be in providing children the opportunity to have a few good meals each day.

I am very excited about our opportunity to pass legislation that will combat childhood hunger and obesity among schoolchildren and that will provide schools with the tools and resources needed to help children develop healthier eating habits.


Kids at Hollingsworth Elementary talk to Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs about how having a delicious and healthy breakfast helps them to learn.


Audrey Rowe, FNS Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs, eats breakfast with students at Hollingsworth Elementary in Las Vegas, Nevada.