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Posts tagged: children

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

Stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale

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 »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

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 »

Farm to Preschool Helps Healthy Habits Take Root Early

USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participating in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA

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 »

Tackling Rural Child Poverty In Southwest Georgia

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 »

WIC Works: Promoting Breastfeeding & Keeping Mothers & Babies Healthy

Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, IBCLC, FAAP, Chair, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding

A portrait of Dr. Joan Younger Meek, Master of Science (MS), Registered Dietician (RD), International Board Certified Lactation (IBCLC) Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP), Chair, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding.

Throughout August, we will be sharing stories and resources on the importance of a healthy start for our children and families.

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Academy of Pediatrics. The association is dedicated to the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. In honor of National Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program Breastfeeding Week, Dr. Joan Younger Meek discusses the benefits of breastfeeding and the role WIC plays in supporting mothers and newborns.

By Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, IBCLC, FAAP, Chair, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the most beneficial way a mother can nourish her baby. Breastfed infants have reduced risk of infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes, certain childhood cancers, and SIDS, compared with formula fed infants. In addition to its nutritional benefits, breastfeeding supports the baby’s developing immune system and helps to protect against respiratory and intestinal infections.  This is especially important for babies born prematurely. Breastfeeding may be linked to lower obesity rates in adolescence and adulthood. And the benefits extend to mothers as well—breastfeeding moms have a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, and postpartum depression compared to mothers who don’t breastfeed. These are just some of the reasons why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends mothers exclusively breastfeed for about the first six months, and to continue doing so as other foods are introduced, for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Read more »

Building a Better Future for our Children

We know that making sure our children have access to a good education and nutritious food helps put them on a path to success. Building a strong foundation for our nation’s youth means ensuring they have all the tools in place to grow up healthy and strong. However, too many American children live in households where healthy food is not always available. In remote areas especially, families still often face barriers to getting the education and healthcare that they need.  That’s why USDA invests in initiatives that boost nutrition, invest in important rural infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and farmers markets, and help our nation’s rural families access crucial resources they need to give their kids a strong start to life.

Because the importance of a healthy start cannot be overstated, we begin August by celebrating National Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program Breastfeeding Week in conjunction with Farmers Market Week. Breastfeeding provides health, nutritional, economic and emotional benefits to both mother and baby, which is why WIC provides support for breastfeeding mothers.  WIC has a significant, positive impact on the overall health of children and over half of the infants in the United States participate in the program. Read more »