As the Federal agency responsible for carrying out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s mission, we are constantly taking actions to improve program integrity. In 2012, we enacted tougher financial sanctions to punish those who abuse the program; sent letters to the CEOs of Ebay, Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist to engage their help in preventing the sale or purchase of SNAP benefits online; and began requiring increased documentation for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits. Last year, the program reached a record level of payment accuracy, and fraud has been reduced to the lowest rate in the history of the program. In 2013, we expect to do even more to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.
But spending taxpayer dollars with integrity also means ensuring that the benefits provided through SNAP are actually able to do what they’re intended to do—provide healthy food to families. While the program has a strong track record of success, its size and reach underscore the importance of periodic review to ensure that the resources it provides accurately reflect the real-world circumstances in which SNAP households find themselves today; circumstances that directly affect their ability to make healthy food choices within a limited budget. Read more »
It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The Act cleared the way for historic improvements to the child nutrition programs, such as school lunch and school breakfast, that serve millions of our nation’s children. We’ve already implemented many provisions of the Act, with many schools reporting success in meeting the new standards, and students finding the new school meals to be an improvement from the status quo. This coming year will be a busy one as we continue to make program updates that help us fight both child hunger and obesity.
Because of the Act, we’ve been able to improve standards for the content of school lunches—and soon school breakfasts— making them healthier than ever before. However, I know implementation is a process that takes time, and as the school year progresses we will continue listening and providing additional education, technical assistance, and flexibilities where appropriate. Throughout this first year, we are closely monitoring implementation and adapting the support we provide to States and schools based on challenges that arise.
We also made the first real reimbursement rate increase for those meals in 30 years to help schools adjust to the changes. Because we know how influential the school environment can be when it comes to encouraging kids to make healthy choices, USDA will propose new standards for other foods sold in schools including in vending machines. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Division Supervisor Jerry Hoffman meets with New York City Park officials about clearing Forest Park in Queens, NY of hazardous downed trees to make it safe for residents in the area on Nov. 4, 2012.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we want to share valuable information about Federal relief efforts and resources to help those impacted in the Northeast. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is coordinating with States and partner organizations to provide disaster nutrition assistance to individuals in 14 states affected by Hurricane Sandy. Read more »
We’re continuing to answer questions we’ve received from folks about the improvements to school meals that started this school year. One concern we’ve heard is that students who may not be accustomed to eating particular foods may throw them away. We know it is important that students get the calories and nutrition they need to stay alert and energized through the day and schools are doing a number of things to make sure this happens. Read more »
These cabbages would be the pride of any gardener, but in this case the gardeners are eighty 2nd and 4th grade students from Junction City Elementary in Junction City, Arkansas. They are among the 4,000 students in 54 schools across the country participating in Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth (HGHY) – a project of USDA’s People’s Garden School Pilot Project.
With its southern climate, the schools in Arkansas got a head start on building their gardens and planting crops. On this day, Arkansas HGHY Principal Investigator Laura Connerly and project leads Janet Carson and Julie Treat of the University of Arkansas, along with HGHY Project Director Brad Gaolach and Martha Aitken from Washington State University, watched the students enthusiastically harvest cabbage, beets, basil, and green beans – pounds and pounds of them.
Directing the harvest was University of Arkansas Extension horticulture agent, Robin Bridges, and 4-H Program Assistant, Cynthia Ford, who have taken the Junction City students step by step through building, planning, planting and now, harvesting their garden. HGHY has enjoyed the full participation of the Junction City Elementary staff from Principal Rebekah West, to the four classroom teachers – Jan Wilson, Dee McKinnon, Connie Hammett and Patricia Murray – to the cafeteria and custodial teams, providing a rich environment for the students to learn about healthy eating. Read more »
A young student at Piedmont Year-round Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia gets ready to enjoy a nutritious breakfast.
Recently, I joined students and staff there for breakfast and was delighted to see the youngsters start their day with a delicious parfait along with cereal, juice, milk, fresh-baked muffins and sliced oranges. While balancing the tall plastic containers of fruit and granola parfait proved just a bit challenging for a few of the younger kids carrying breakfast trays to their tables at Piedmont Year-round Elementary School in Charleston, West Virginia, the meal itself was exactly the type of healthy, well-balanced meal envisioned with the recent improvements to school meal standards issued by USDA. Read more »