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Posts tagged: FNS

Reap What You Sow: Choctaw Children Learn about Gardening and Cooking

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

“How many of you like vegetables?”  The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses.  But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight.  A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit.  A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite.  The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.

Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce.  The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »

Produce Pilot Ready to Take Root in Schools

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Whether it’s trying on a new pair of shoes or eating a new item from your favorite restaurant, there’s always a feeling of excitement when you try something new. Here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we get that same feeling when we are able to create new opportunities for our nation’s producers. That’s why we’re excited to announce that AMS and our sister agency—the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)—have launched a new pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The new pilot program—established by the 2014 Farm Bill—is part of USDA’s continued commitment to create and expand opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers.  The pilot will open doors for American producers, giving them an additional opportunity to supply quality, fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in up to eight states. Read more »

Ensuring Healthy Meals during the Summer Helps Kids Head Back to Class Ready to Learn

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Gadsden ISD Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas.  He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal.  The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.

For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools.  Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday. Read more »

USDA, Department of Defense, Celebrate the Bounty of Farmers Market

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

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 »

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. Read more »

Supporting WIC Breastfeeding Moms and Improving Infants’ Health

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

A WIC peer counselor provides encouragement to new mothers at a community breastfeeding support group in West Virginia.

To highlight the importance of a healthy start in life, more than 170 countries celebrated World Breastfeeding Week earlier this month.  Themed “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life,” the recognition encourages the practice to improve the health of babies around the globe.  The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) takes it a step further, recognizing the entire month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service shares this commitment.  In fact, its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (better known as WIC) promotes breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice.  We support breastfeeding among WIC moms by providing counseling and educational materials, offering healthy food packages, and giving out breastfeeding aids, like breast pumps. Read more »