Ensuring disadvantaged children have enough to eat during the summer is a top priority for USDA. Historically Black Colleges and Universities can play a critical role in helping us achieve this goal.
Although about 21 million children nationwide receive free and reduced-priced meals through our National School Lunch Program, only about 3.5 million meals are served through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) on a typical day. Closing this gap and ensuring that disadvantaged children do not go hungry during the summer months is a goal that USDA can only achieve through work with our partners.
One of the ways we’re strengthening partnerships is through our StrikeForce Initiative which helps us target state partners to work with across the country including universities and colleges. A great example of this initiative at work is the Alabama Department of Education teaming up with Tuskegee University, a Historically Black University in Alabama, which now sponsors four community-based summer feeding sites in Macon County where disadvantaged kids can get a free and nutritious summer meal. Read more »
Our children are our most prized possessions and we must do whatever it takes to help them excel in the future. Leading them on the path to becoming part of a healthier generation, USDA revised the standards for meals and snacks served in their schools. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a New York City high school to see first-hand how students were adjusting to the new standards.
The changes to the meal and snack standards are in response to the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Implemented in the 2012 school year, the new meal standards made several changes. Now, the 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program can enjoy more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods and leaner proteins. The new smart snack standards, which will be implemented July 1, 2014, set minimum requirements for snacks sold in vending machines or as part of a la carte meals sold on campus during school hours. Read more »
Before kids sit down to eat a nutritious summer food service meal, adults have to do important work behind the scenes.
As a public affairs specialist, promoting and publishing information about federal nutrition assistance programs to partners, media and the public is a key part of the job. But I don’t often get to see the real day-to-day operation of these programs. I have attended summer program kick-off events and visited other program sites for special events. But, I recently got another perspective. I accepted an offer from our regional Special Nutrition Programs branch to participate in a Summer Food Service Program review.
This cross-training experience provided a first-hand look at how the program works from the inside. I learned how our regional staff and state partners monitor sponsors and sites to make sure they are in compliance with rules and regulations to ensure program integrity and healthy summer meals for kids. Regional Food and Nutrition Service staff is responsible for program oversight and must conduct reviews of new private, non-profit sponsors and sites, often alongside the state agency. At last count, there were 17 of these new sponsors approved in Texas, with 61 new sites. Read more »
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” These words, spoken by Albert Einstein, can hold true for anything. USDA’s Commodity Procurement Program enjoys seeing schools and other organizations develop creative, healthy meals featuring foods we purchase for federal feeding programs. We hope that finding innovative ways to use USDA foods is contagious and that others catch on.
During a recent conference, USDA saw how a bit of ingenuity can turn low-sodium corn, dried beans, and fresh squash into a tasty meal. Inspired by the American Indian tradition of the three sisters, Tocabe, an American Indian Eatery used corn and beans from USDA Foods and squash from the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to make a healthy soup. Read more »
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Administrator Della John, and USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (right) at a hoop house operated by the Tribe. USDA photo.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) mid-year meeting in Reno, Nevada. The NCAI meeting was a warm and familiar place for me, as I recently left a position as NCAI’s Director of Economic Development to assume my current position as Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.
While I was in Nevada, I wanted to be certain to see Secretary Vilsack’s StrikeForce Initiative in action, as I was aware that Nevada’s USDA leaders had selected Nevada’s Indian reservations for their StrikeForce focus. What a day I had on June 26! It was tremendous to experience the mutual vigor among tribal leaders, USDA leaders, and their respective teams. Read more »
To enjoy nutritious fresh fruit smoothies - Summer Food kickoff participants power a blender using a stationary bicycle.
On the grounds of Valley Hi-North Laguna Library in Sacramento, California, upwards of 150 children participated in the California Summer Meals kickoff event hosted by the California Summer Meal Coalition, Sacramento Public Library, and the Elk Grove Unified School District. USDA’s Summer Food Service Program offers free meals during summer break so kids are better fueled with healthy food to learn and grow all year long.
Though the weather approached 100 degrees, the children were not deterred from learning about the importance of healthy meals during the summer months at this event. Read more »