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Posts tagged: FNS

New Web Application Helps Families Find Summer Meals in Their Communities

Summer Meals Site Finder graphic

Putting hunger on vacation thanks to the new Summer Meals Site Finder tool.

USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.

That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them.  The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »

Team Up for School Nutrition Success

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden. (Photo credit: Dallas Independent School District)

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Heart Association. The association is a tireless advocate for supporting nutritious options in all environments, including the workplace, grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.  AHA recently participated in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, connecting them with school nutrition professionals and other partners dedicated to supporting healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

By Kristy Anderson, Government Relations Manager, American Heart Association

It’s the number one killer of Americans and it costs the most to treat. Yet 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases would disappear if we practiced a little prevention such as eating right and exercising more. Read more »

Behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Matt Russell

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.

“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”

So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »

FNS Requests Feedback to Strengthen Program Integrity, Improve Technology

SNAP EBT cards

FNS is looking for ways to increase competition in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is committed to supporting struggling families and helping the most vulnerable Americans put food on the table.  Today, over 60 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants are children, elderly, or have disabilities.   The WIC program – officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – plays a vital role in the health of low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children during critical periods of growth and development.

So it’s no surprise that we’re dedicated to ensuring participants have efficient access to programs essential to their health and well-being.  To this end, FNS is looking for ways to increase competition in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, the process by which most benefits are redeemed.  All SNAP state and local agencies and some WIC agencies conduct EBT using magnetic stripe cards similar to debit or credit cards.  By FY 2021, all WIC agencies will be required to use EBT. Read more »

Lessons Learned from Farm to Summer Successes

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoying locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member

As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option.  Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.

With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »