AmeriCorps VISTA summer associate Michal Elias-Bachrach serves summer meals to children and teens through the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.
The following guest blog highlights the partnership between USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which leverages the service-oriented energy of AmeriCorps summer associates to expand and enhance USDA summer meal sites for children in low-income communities. USDA summer meals fill the hunger gap for the over 21-million children across the country who rely on school meals during the school year. This blog details the summer associates’ experiences, as narrated by an AmeriCorps VISTA program specialist who was integral to the partnership.
By Mark Wilson, Program Specialist, Corporation for National and Community Service
“Sports, games, nutrition, friends and fun!” is how Andrea Wilkinson described her summer service in Reno, Nev. From June to August, 579 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates like Andrea served in 42 states and the District of Columbia, making the summer meals program more fun and beneficial for families. Read more »
The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Public Health Association (APHA). The association is a tireless advocate working to create the healthiest nation. APHA strives to reach that goal through science-based research, and education.
By Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
As kids across the country begin a new school year, they’ll be hitting the books to learn important skills to be successful later in life. They’ll also be visiting cafeterias, vending machines and school stores for the foods and beverages they need to fuel their growing bodies and for achieving academic success. With nearly one in three children overweight or obese, it’s critical that healthy meals are available to them throughout the school environment. Read more »
A students’ favorite: stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale.
The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds. Read more »
KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.
Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.
Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »
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 »
In late July, I was thrilled to visit with leaders from across southwest Georgia, including my hometown of Camilla, to discuss how USDA can support their work on the ground tackling issues relating to rural child poverty.
In Georgia, the poverty rate is 19 percent, and for children, it’s a staggering 27 percent. In Dougherty County, nearly one in three residents live in poverty.
This is why people like Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Secretary of Interior Jewell, and I are hitting the road—to hear first-hand what’s working in rural America and how we, the federal government, can help. Read more »