This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »
A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.
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 Linda Mailhot, Head Cook, Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor Maine on September 24, 2014
Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) is a small school with a big vision, located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Here we strive to promote a healthy lifestyle for our students through physical activity and nutrition education.
The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the school where students are taught to make healthy choices for themselves beginning in kindergarten. Students progress each day through a fruit-and-vegetable bar and an entrée station. Along this route they choose the nutritious and appealing foods they need to build a balanced meal according to the new school meal standards issued by USDA. Many of our entrée offerings are multinational, which is a great way to introduce students to nutritional foods from a variety of cultures. By empowering students in the cafeteria, they learn to make healthy choices for life. Read more »
Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.
Earlier this month, USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week to highlight the healthy offerings they provide American families. The department invests in farmers markets in a myriad of ways – from helping farmers develop their products for markets, to enriching children’s bodies and minds through the “farm to school” program. In fact, there are more than 8,000 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and more than 5,000 farm stands and farmers markets across the nation are accepting SNAP benefits.
During the month, I had a chance to speak with Lt. Col. Eric Smith, commander of Fort Meade’s (Md.) Headquarters Command Battalion. We discussed USDA’s partnership with the Department of Defense and supporting the Healthy Base Initiative through FNS programs. DoD’s Healthy Base Initiative works to improve the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use. Currently, 14 military installations participate in a pilot to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles. Fort Meade is one of them. Read more »
Waterford students learned how to make “Smart Snacks” (fruit kabobs) and the nutrition benefits of each fruit.
Doreen Simonds is the Nutrition and Purchasing Services Director for the Waterford Public Schools in Waterford, Michigan. Doreen has been a strong voice for healthier school meals and creative nutrition education strategies. Under her leadership, thirteen of Waterford’s twenty schools have won USDA HealthierUS School Challenge awards. I’d like to share Doreen’s blog below on the importance of teamwork in moving forward on children’s health and nutrition.
Oakland County, Michigan has always been in the forefront for promoting progressive moves in child nutrition to support healthy learning for our children. Waterford Schools Food and Nutrition is fortunate to be part of a collaborative community that is always growing for the good of education. With the help of great leadership in our Michigan Department of Education/Team Nutrition and School Nutrition Association of Michigan (SNAM) of Oakland County, we are implementing the new regulations set forth by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The teamwork provided our district with great support and direction through comprehensive and thorough statewide and county staff trainings. Read more »
Next week, I, along with dozens of staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have the pleasure of joining thousands of school nutrition professionals, members of the public health community, and food industry representatives in Boston at the 68th Annual National Conference of the School Nutrition Association (SNA). This annual event provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the school nutrition community to network, gain ideas, and learn from one another.
As a past president of SNA myself, I look forward to this meeting each year. Being surrounded by dedicated nutrition professionals who all want to make sure we are providing the best possible support to our nation’s children, and hearing about all the creative approaches schools are using to successfully serve healthy school meals is quite a treat. I am excited to be able to meet with members of the community one-on-one, and hear firsthand about their successes, as well as their challenges. I also look forward to speaking to the larger audience during the second general session on Tuesday. My USDA colleagues will be on-hand throughout the conference to gather more feedback and provide additional information, technical assistance and other support to school nutrition professionals. Read more »
Many consumers want to “buy local” and support their local economy with their purchases. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture results indicate that nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Today, local food is a more than $7 billion industry and growing, according to industry estimates. The excitement around this market is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs, and improving quality of life. Read more »