Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country. It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room. It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.
Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success. Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in. And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. Read more »
Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.
Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.
Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »
Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.
Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.
One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »
Dunbar Elementary School students enjoying fresh, local strawberries during Delaware's Strawberry week.
The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank them for sharing their stories!
By Nancy R. Mears, Supervisor of School Nutrition, Delaware
Farm to School (F2S) means different things to different people depending on where you live in the country. In Delaware, utilizing F2S to source local produce allows Laurel School District to meet the fruit and vegetable requirements of the new meal pattern outlined by federal guidelines for school meals. With a little creativity, we found these guidelines can be met with this valuable resource.
Delaware’s Farm to School Program unifies 19 school districts and assists all schools in purchasing local products. F2S is an economic benefit to Delaware farmers, as well as its economy and agricultural industry. Read more »
Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.
What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest. We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race. Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!
Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »
The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.
Healthy habits are taking root in our nation’s schools. Thanks to an important commitment made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, more of our nation’s kids are being exposed to lessons about healthy eating and learning where their food comes from. Established as part of that legislation, USDA’s Farm to School Program plays a vital role in improving health outcomes for our schoolchildren.
This October, during National Farm to School Month, it’s important to acknowledge farm to school programs’ contributions to fostering a healthier next generation. These programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and communities to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice for America’s children. Read more »