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Posts tagged: Food and Nutrition

Celebrating Progress: National School Lunch Week 2016

Cross-posted from the Food Research and Action Center blog:

Last week, children from more than a dozen schools and child care centers across the nation joined First Lady Michelle Obama for her final harvest of the White House garden. This event was more than just photo ops and shaking hands; kids got their hands dirty, harvesting the produce they later used to prepare a healthy meal. This was a neat experience for the students who participated, but it was also representative of the types of activities students are participating in all around the country. School gardens, nutritious snacks, farm to lunch tray meals, and nutrition education are all part of the healthier school environments students are experiencing each and every day.

Today kicks off National School Lunch Week 2016 and continues our month-long observance of Farm to School Month, and this year, there’s a lot to celebrate. More than 50 million children around the country attend schools that participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Not only are their meals full of nutritious foods – with 99 percent of schools nationwide reporting that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards – their entire learning environment fosters healthy habits now and throughout the rest of their lives. The Smart Snacks Final Rule aligned the standards for snacks offered to students during the school day with the nutrition standards that apply to lunch and breakfast. In addition, the recently published Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule ensures that any food and beverage marketing kids are exposed to during the school day must adhere to the Smart Snacks standards, sending a consistent, positive message to students about the importance of healthy eating. Read more »

Farm to School Goes Year Round in the Northeast

Connecticut service members serving local blueberry smoothies

Connecticut service members serve local blueberry smoothies and continue farm to school efforts at summer meals sites.

Over the past few summers, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs have been elevating meal quality and encouraging program participation by serving seasonal menus, utilizing high quality ingredients, and providing nutrition education activities. We’ve heard of such farm to summer activities – the embedding of farm to school principles within summer meals programs – from practitioners all around the country. Here in the Northeast, summer 2016 brought a wave of coordinated programming, and National Farm to School Month is the perfect time to celebrate this trend that is supporting healthy kids and communities all year long! Read more »

Back to School with Student-Led Smarter Lunchrooms

Fruits and vegetables in boxes

Colorful displays highlight nutritious choices in school lunchrooms.

Teenagers at several schools across the country are working together with school nutrition staff to make changes to the school cafeteria.  Informed by Smarter Lunchrooms’ research, these students are promoting healthful foods to their peers and having a say in menu offerings.  Team Nutrition Training Grants help fund a number of school activities that engage students in nutrition education and wellness activities.  To learn more about Team Nutrition Training Grant activities, visit

The following guest blog describes how Iowa high school students worked with school nutrition staff to alter the way fruits and vegetables are offered in their school cafeteria. Following the changes, other students have taken notice of the new colorful displays, creative menu names, and signs promoting the salad bars. Reading their story, you’ll learn about innovative ways to engage youth in school wellness efforts.

By Carrie Scheidel, MPH, Team Nutrition Co-Director, Iowa Department of Education

As teachers prepared their classrooms for the new school year, school nutrition professionals and students in Iowa were working to make their lunchrooms smarter.   A partnership between the University of Iowa Public Policy Center – College of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, and five Iowa high schools worked to apply Smarter Lunchrooms’ techniques to make healthy choices easier at school. Read more »

New SNAP E&T Initiatives Aim to Help SNAP Participants Find Jobs

Adult education class raising hands to ask questions

SNAP E&T provides in-demand job training and skills to low-income and low-skilled individuals.

Getting a good job these days takes more than good intentions because today’s jobs require a higher level of skills than ever before.  This is why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T), administered by states across the country, has such an important role to play in helping SNAP recipients gain the skills they need to find and keep good jobs.  This is also why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to supporting this effort.

USDA demonstrated that commitment in two new initiatives launched just this week, the SNAP E&T Learning Academy and a new website for the innovative SNAP to Skills Project, led by the Food and Nutrition Service. The Academy breaks new ground, as a first-ever opportunity that will help address an identified need. You see, though SNAP E&T programs operate across America, we’ve found that there is an opportunity for further sharing of best practices and lessons learned by developing resources that spread the knowledge base throughout the country. The two new projects launched this week will use a “train-the-trainer” model to create new leadership capacity to build the next generation of SNAP E&T programs. Read more »

MyPlate, MyState Helps You Bring the Joy of Local Foods to the Classroom

MyPlate, MyState Pennsylvania sample coloring sheet

MyPlate, MyState activities, including this sample coloring sheet, can bring the joy of local foods into the classroom year-round.

Hello Teachers of America!

Are you looking for resources for your classes that combine topics such as food and nutrition, farmers and farmers markets, and your state’s agriculture?

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy & Promotion (CNPP) – the group responsible for MyPlate – recently launched MyPlate, MyState – a mini-campaign that encourages consumers to personalize their healthy eating style with local and regional foods and flavors. MyPlate, MyState is part of MyPlate, MyWins, a consumer education campaign designed to help Americans find healthy eating styles that work for them through small changes that can be maintained over time. MyPlate, MyState brings home – literally and figuratively – the messages of MyPlate, MyWins by personalizing eating styles with local flavors, local foods, and local recipes. Read more »

National Farm to School Month Highlights Benefits to America’s Students and Communities

Vegetables in trays and pumpkins on top

The local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.

It’s National Farm to School Month and USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems is here to help…and not just in October!  All year long, we offer research, grants, training and technical assistance to help connect child nutrition programs with local foods.  Here’s why.

Farm to school helps form healthy habits. By incorporating local foods, farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.  And the results are impressive.  The recent 2015 USDA Farm to School Census shows farm to school programs now exist in every state in the nation and in every type of school district – large and small, rural and urban alike. With that in mind, we plan to build on this momentum! Read more »