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Posts tagged: FNS

USDA, Partners Seek Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium for our Students

School lunch staff with food in trays

Creating healthier environments starts at home and in schools.

Sodium, the major nutrient found in salt, is essential to maintain blood volume, regulate water balance in cells, and aid nerve function.  According to the American Heart Association, however, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

Unfortunately, 90 percent of children in the U.S. consume too much sodium (as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  With that in mind, USDA and our partners are seeking creative ways to reduce sodium content in school meals, yet still keep students healthy and happy. Read more »

Adding a Helping of Books to Nutritious Summer Meals

A boy reading a book with a man

Enrichment activities help keep children and teens engaged, while they receive a healthy meal or snack at USDA summer meals sites.

The following guest blog was submitted by Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to free and low-cost books to children in need. Many USDA summer meals sites provide not only healthy meals and snacks, but also offer physical activity and enrichment activities to keep children and teens engaged and coming back.  First Book serves up a helping of books and educational resources to support these meals sites while they provide healthy options when school is out for the summer.

By Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book

We all know that nutrition is closely tied to school performance.  Brains and bodies need healthy foods to nourish and nurture their development.  While schools play a critical role in providing free and reduced cost breakfasts and lunches during the school year, those needs can be even greater in the summer when children are out of school and families’ limited food budgets need to account for those extra meals. Fortunately, thanks to the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), healthy summer meals are available for children in low-income neighborhoods. We just have to work together to make sure families know about summer meals programs available in their community. Read more »

USDA Agencies, Suppliers and Vendors Taking Steps to Improve USDA Foods Purchase Process

Fresh vegetable cups at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Just after the ACDA event concluded, we met in California with producers and processors about our fruit and vegetable purchases for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). These meetings are another example of the steps we take to learn from our stakeholders and improve USDA Foods products. USDA Photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commodity purchases play an important role in supporting American agriculture.  One commodity purchasing effort – the USDA Foods Program – purchases about 2 billion pounds of nutritious, domestically produced foods each year and supplies this food to families, schools, food banks, and communities nationwide, also serving as a key tool for combatting hunger.

Together, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service and Farm Service Agency manage the USDA Foods Program. And together, we have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA’s food procurement practices to improve the program for our customers and stakeholders. Read more »

New Training Tracker Tool Now Available to School Nutrition Professionals

Professional Standards Tracking Tool screenshot

The ‘Enter Training Information’ page of the Professional Standards Tracking Tool provides training information for a school or school district’s employees. (Click to enlarge)

As a former school nutrition director, I can tell you that school nutrition professionals are dedicated to serving nutritious meals to their students and committed to making the new meal patterns work.  Established by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the new standards require schools to prepare healthier meals for the nearly 31 million children who rely on them each and every school day. At USDA, we understand school nutrition professionals are on the front lines every day as we all work together to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our nation’s children….and we’re glad we have them in our corner!

In March, USDA announced the final rule to establish national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition personnel who manage and operate our meal programs. The rule establishes education and training standards to ensure personnel have the training and tools to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy foods.  These strategies will support our hardworking school nutrition professionals as they create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals for our kids. Read more »

Photo-Worthy Meals

Girl with a plate of food

Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”

No, it’s really not. Read more »

Lessons Learned from a Food Service Director: Kids Like Healthy Foods

Fruits in plastic trays

In Kentucky, the Whitley County School District customizes the fruit and vegetable options served in each school, based on the preferences of those particular students.

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 Sharon Foley, Food Service Director, Whitley County School District, Kentucky

During the more than two decades I’ve worked in schools, I’ve witnessed what we now know to be true: healthy kids learn better. But I’ll also let you in on a secret: Not only are healthy foods better for our children’s long-term outcomes, kids like healthy foods! Read more »