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Posts tagged: FNS

USDA Training Benefits Child Nutrition Program, Increases Access to Healthy Meals

Students eating breakfast in classroom

The Breakfast in the Classroom Program provides students a healthy start to their day.

The following guest blog highlights the important work of one of our nation’s many hardworking child nutrition professionals.  As a recent participant in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Thomas J. Smith learned about best practices, strategies and resources to ensure healthy meals are provided to his schools’ most needy students.

By Thomas J. Smith, Director of Child Nutrition, Archdiocese of New York – Department of Education

The primary mission of The Child Nutrition Program, at the Archdiocese of New York-Department of Education, is to ensure that healthy and nutritious meals are provided to our most needy students. Over 20,000 meals are served on a daily basis. Meals are served to our recipient agency schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York. As a result, we serve over 4-million meals between breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack and fresh fruits and vegetables each year. Read more »

Blending Up New Ways for Kids to Enjoy School Meals

A sloppy joe with vegetables

The Mushroom Council website has information to help schools incorporate mushrooms in popular meals like beef hamburgers and sloppy joes. Photo courtesy of the Mushroom Council.

Sometimes the right blend can change your perception. One of our industry research and promotion programs is remixing school meal items to help change students’ preconceptions and get them to eat healthy foods.

The Mushroom Council helped out on this front in a number of ways. The Council, which is overseen by our agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – encouraged schools to use recipes that added mushrooms to their beef burgers. By reducing some of the beef and adding the hearty texture of mushrooms, schools were able to increase student consumption of healthy meals without compromising taste. Read more »

USDA Participated in a “First of Its Kind” Camp for DC-Area Teens Focused Specifically on Open Data and Agriculture

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds.

Summer has arrived and young people all over the country are enjoying their time spent in summer camps. And while many camps involve athletics or camping out, others are meant to keep kids’ brains moving.  Today’s camps are anything but boring. Science Technology Engineering, Agriculture and Math (STEAM) camps can be exciting.

In an era increasingly defined by the challenge of using an unprecedented flow of information to solve problems and govern better, USDA provides national leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition and related issues. To support USDA’s mission, the GovLab Academy designed and executed a dual pilot of a two-week open data summer program, in July 2015, for Washington, DC-area teenagers. The camp’s goal was to help the leaders of tomorrow learn more about data, the tools of data science, and the ways they might be leveraged to improve innovation and security in the nation’s food supply. The camp also provided an opportunity for USDA employees to support the goal of strengthening STEAM education in this country by piloting an initiative that can be scaled and replicated across agencies and across levels of government. Read more »

Back to School, Back to Healthier School Meals

Children eating school meals

Nutritious school meals keep students healthy and ready to learn.

It’s hard to believe the start of the school year is right around the corner. It feels like just yesterday the final bell rang, and students exchanged their pens and pencils for swim trunks and sunglasses. But it’s time for students, teachers and other school staff to get ready for the year ahead, and that includes school nutrition professionals who will soon be tasked with serving healthy school meals to over 30 million students nationwide.

This past year, America’s school nutrition professionals did some phenomenal work, and I look forward to picking up right where we left off. Today, more than 96 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards, serving healthy meals approved by nutritionists and students alike. A recent study found that kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at school — not to mention more whole grains, low-fat dairy, and  lean protein, than they were before the new meal standards.  I’m certain that through continued collaboration with our partners and food professionals, this school year will bring even more progress toward a healthier, hunger-free generation. Read more »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »

Farm to Preschool Helps Healthy Habits Take Root Early

USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participating in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA

The term “farm to preschool” encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum. Here, USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participates in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA.

“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.

Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Read more »