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Posts tagged: ERS

When Schools Improve Meals, Positive Results Follow

The last few years have seen significant improvements to the health of the school environment.  Schools across the country are increasing their efforts to prevent childhood obesity by serving healthier school meals providing more time for physical activity, and helping kids learn about proper nutrition.  It’s clear that the new, healthier school meals implemented last year are working and having a positive impact on the health of our next generation.

We recently surveyed states and schools across the country, and the vast majority of schools—80 percent—have already reported that they are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, with some states reporting 100% of schools completely transitioned to the new standards.  We expect the remaining schools to “make it official” soon, too.  In fact, a study just released by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project found that last year 94 percent of U.S. school districts said they were on track to meet the updated nutrition standards for lunches by now. Read more »

Back to School with Statistics, Join USDA’s Virtual Open House

A new academic year is here for millions of students and teachers across the country, and in spirit of the many back to school nights and open houses taking place, I’m encouraging you to explore USDA’s International Year of Statistics Virtual Open House.

The International Year of Statistics, sponsored by more than 2,000 organizations – including the USDA – is a worldwide event to help teach everyone about the powerful and far-reaching effects of statistics. When people hear the word “statistics,” they often think of sports statistics or the course they took and struggled to pass. While you can think of statistics in these terms, there is more to the relationship between you and statistics than you may imagine. Read more »

The Essentials of Food and Agriculture – in Charts and Maps

This is one of more than 75 charts and maps in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials from USDA’s Economic Research Service, compiling a set of key statistics on the ag and food sectors and the rural economy. Each chart in the collection includes accompanying text.

This is one of more than 75 charts and maps in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials from USDA’s Economic Research Service, compiling a set of key statistics on the ag and food sectors and the rural economy. Each chart in the collection includes accompanying text.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

With the abundance of news and information on the food and agriculture sector, sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. You might be a seasoned expert on food, agriculture, or the rural economy, or you may have just a general knowledge. In any case, there are a number of key indicators that will bring you up to speed on a range of basic questions.

How much, for example, do agriculture and related industries contribute to the U.S. economy? Which commodities are our main agricultural exports? What share of their household incomes do Americans spend on food? How do job earnings in rural areas compare with metro areas? How much of our Nation’s water does agriculture consume? Read more »

Next Year at School: New Standards Point to Healthier Snacks and Other Competitive Foods

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, “competitive foods” in schools (a la carte and vending machine items) will be subject to new nutritional standards.

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, “competitive foods” in schools (a la carte and vending machine items) will be subject to new nutritional standards.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, “competitive foods” in schools will be subject to new nutritional standards. Competitive foods include à la carte cafeteria items like pizza, French fries, and ice cream, as well as snacks and beverages sold in vending machines or at snack bars, school stores, or other locations.

Referred to as “competitive foods” because they compete with meals served through the National School Lunch Program, these foods and beverages are currently inconsistently regulated and frequently high-calorie, low-nutrient options. Competitive foods are more common at secondary than at elementary schools. A 2005 survey revealed that 32 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools offered non-milk a la carte items. Vending machines were found in 27 percent of elementary, 87 percent of middle, and 98 percent of high schools. Read more »

USDA Plant Breeding Community Strengthens Efforts

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The average consumer might not think about it, but for decades, USDA plant breeding research has been producing varieties that have been helping feed the world and preserve the environment. We know that you look for the plumpest, juiciest strawberries at your neighborhood market, so USDA plant breeding scientists worked to find the genes to make them taste even better.  And to help farmers in Northern climates produce more food for our tables, USDA plant breeding researchers developed corn that would mature early before the bitter cold arrived. This important work plays a significant role in our lives and USDA hopes to build on all these positive outcomes to make sure even more keep coming.  Therefore, to coordinate work on plant breeding and maximize the results from ever more limited resources, USDA formed a new Plant Breeding Working Group (PBWG) earlier this year. Read more »

Parental Employment, Education, and Disability are Factors in Food Insecurity among Children

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In the wake of the economic downturn that began in late 2007, food insecurity in households with children remains near the highest level observed since monitoring began in 1995. In 2011, 20.6 percent of U.S. households with children were food insecure—unable at some time during the year to acquire adequate food for one or more members due to insufficient money or other resources for food.  In about half of those households, only adults experienced reduced food quality or quantity, but in 10 percent of all households with children, one or more of the children were also affected.

Food security is especially important for children because the foods they eat—or don’t eat—affect not only their current health and well-being, but also their development and future health. Studies suggest that children in food-insecure households are more likely to have negative health and development outcomes than children in otherwise similar food-secure households, such as poorer health, more frequent colds, and lower math and reading achievement. Read more »