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Posts tagged: Food Nutrition

Agriculture Key to Food Security

FFAS Under Secretary Jim Miller delivers a keynote address at the International Food and Development Conference.

FFAS Under Secretary Jim Miller delivers a keynote address at the International Food and Development Conference.

Written by Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Jim Miller

During this year’s International Food Aid and Development Conference (IFADC), food security featured prominently as both a major concern and a primary program focus for current and future USDA projects. Each year the IFADC brings together USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, private sector companies and voluntary organizations who collaborate throughout the year to provide America’s food aid and assistance to the world’s neediest people. This week I joined USDA and USAID leaders in Kansas City to address this important subject. Read more »

Meat and Poultry Hotline Expert Diane Van to Host Live Facebook Chat on Summer Food Safety—Just in Time for 4th of July Grilling!

By Diane Van, FSIS Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager 

Remember when you were a student and your teacher would say, “If you have a question, someone else in the class is wondering the same thing?” Well, after many years of working with the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, I can tell you that nearly every parent, cook, and party-planner—no matter how experienced—has questions about keeping the food that they serve safe for those who will eat it. Not surprisingly, the questions we receive at the Meat and Poultry Hotline are often repeats that we’ve heard many times before.

For this 4th of July weekend, I’m going to try a new approach to answering summer food safety questions. Thursday afternoon at 1:00, I’ll be hosting a real, live “Summer Food Safety Chat” on USDA’s Facebook page and USDA Live. To join the chat, all you have to do is log in to your own Facebook account, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s page, and ask away.

Sure, I’m expecting the usual suspects: “How long can potato salad stay out before it’s unsafe to eat?” “How long can I leave fried chicken in the refrigerator?” “Do hot dogs need to be hot?”

I’ll gladly answer those, but I’m hoping some of you can come up with a few clever new ones.  Watch what others ask, and there’s a good chance you’ll learn something you didn’t know you were even wondering.  Ask something you thought should be common knowledge, and someone else will be glad you spoke up.

The chat will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET, on Thursday, July 1—just in time to get you started on your shopping, prepping, and grilling for the July 4 holiday weekend. In the meantime, you can find food safety tips tailored for the summer season on FSIS’ Twitter and YouTube accounts.  See you there!

North Carolina School Earns Gold for Creating Healthier School Environment for Kids

 Blog by Dr. Lynn Harvey, Ed.D., RD, LDN, FADA
Section Chief, Child Nutrition Services, Division of School Support,
NC Department of Public Instruction 

It was a proud day in North Carolina as Thomasville Primary School earned the HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award.  Officials from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were in Thomasville, N.C., to present the award.  Child Nutrition Personnel were joined by the Mayor, members of the City Council, County Commission, and Board of Education, the Superintendent, Principal, Teachers, Parents…and of course, the VIPs of the day…the STUDENTS!  Thomasville Primary School was the “jewel” in the state education crown having earned top recognition for their efforts to educate the “whole child.”

  

As part of the celebration, students demonstrated what they do all year, to not only achieve the Healthier US School Challenge nutrition standards, but also the physical side… they planted seeds in the school garden as they got instruction from a local farmer; they honed their match skills by spending money (school-issued currency) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at their produce stand; they played Food Pyramid Scramble (yes, running and squatting was involved….just ask USDA Food and Nutrition Branch Chief, Jane Mandel, and Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette who ran the race in business clothes!) 

 

When guests arrived for the awards celebration, they were greeted by the school’s Child Nutrition Personnel wearing bright yellow T-shirts that said ”Let’s Move”.

  

“The reason we picked this slogan,” said Brenda Watford, Thomasville County Schools Nutrition Director, “was to let First Lady Michelle Obama know that we are behind her ‘Let’s Move’ program. We want to help stop the obesity epidemic. We send newsletters home about the nutrition that children need and fact sheets about our fresh fruits and fresh vegetables that we serve as part of our USDA Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program.” 

  

What I observed on this day was nothing short of a complete transformation in the school cafeteria. I saw a generation of “lunch ladies” transform into a new generation of “Let’s Move Ladies.” So at the end of the celebration…we respectfully said “Good Bye Lunch Ladies….Hello “Let’s Move Ladies!” 

Thomasville Primary School’s Let’s Move and Nutrition Staff and other local, state and national VIPs were on hand to celebrate the school receiving a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award in Thomasville, NC, (USDA Photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger)
Thomasville Primary School’s Let’s Move and Nutrition Staff and other local, state and national VIPs were on hand to celebrate the school receiving a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award in Thomasville, NC, (USDA Photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger) 

Physical Education Teacher Mandy Davis runs with a Thomasville Primary School student in the “strawberry in a spoon race” as part of their Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama. The school received a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award. (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger)
Physical Education Teacher Mandy Davis runs with a Thomasville Primary School student in the “strawberry in a spoon race” as part of their Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama. The school received a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award. (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger) 

Child Nutrition Assistants Shirley Ryals and Carrie Crump serve nutritious foods to Thomasville Primary School students during the lunch meal showcasing why their school won a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger)
Child Nutrition Assistants Shirley Ryals and Carrie Crump serve nutritious foods to Thomasville Primary School students during the lunch meal showcasing why their school won a USDA HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger) 

Pop Quiz: How Can You Reduce the Fat in School Lunches?

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When Americans think of the United States Department of Agriculture, they understandably think about the millions of farmers and ranchers who produce our food, feed, fiber, and fuel – the most productive in the world. But there is another group of Americans directly impacted by the work of USDA – the millions of our children who are fed through our child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

A recent study sponsored by the Food and Nutrition Service examined how well schools across the country met USDA nutrition standards for key nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamin C.  Several of us at the USDA Economic Research Service realized that we could use that same data set to look at the characteristics of schools that met the fat requirements and, more importantly, what successful steps some schools are taking to do just that.

The data set is small, but it is nationally representative.  We found many statistically significant associations between fat content and school policies despite the small nature of the sample.

A number of school policies and practices were associated with lower fat lunches:

* participation in programs that promote fresh fruits and vegetables or locally grown food;
* providing low-fat milk as the only milk choice;
* eliminating French fries or dessert from the menus;
* eliminating vending machines in middle and high schools; and
* excluding a la carte foods from elementary school menus.

The meal planning method also showed a pattern. In the traditional “food-based” method, each meal must consist of certain food item categories (e.g., meat, vegetable, starch). Some schools have moved to a nutrient-based method that plans meals according to nutrient content. And some have opted for an intermediate, “enhanced food-based” plan that combines the food-based method with more fruits, vegetables, and grains. The traditional meal planning method was used more by schools with the highest fat content.

The only school characteristic that was strongly associated with lower fat meals was being in an urban location compared to a suburban or rural one.

The strength of so many associations between school food policies and lunch fat content provide some interesting food for thought in addressing current concerns about nutrition for children.

Dr. Lynn Harvey with NC Department of Public Instruction Child Nutrition Services and Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette with USDA Food and Nutrition Service encourages Thomasville Primary School students in the “strawberry in the spoon” race as part of the school’s Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger) Dr. Lynn Harvey with NC Department of Public Instruction Child Nutrition Services and Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette with USDA Food and Nutrition Service encourages Thomasville Primary School students in the “strawberry in the spoon” race as part of the school’s Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger)

Local farmer and County Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley volunteers his time to teach Thomasville Primary School students the art of farming in their school’s garden. The school located in Thomasville, NC, is a HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award winner and also has a Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger) Local farmer and County Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley volunteers his time to teach Thomasville Primary School students the art of farming in their school’s garden. The school located in Thomasville, NC, is a HealthierUS School Challenge Gold Award winner and also has a Let’s Move program inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger)

 
Constance Newman, Economist, USDA Economic Research Service

A Century of American Eating in a USDA Database

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

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When the prominent food writer Marion Nestle accepted an invitation to speak at our agency to mark the centennial of USDA’s data on food availability in the United States, it didn’t surprise me that her remarks would focus on the problem of obesity. It’s evident throughout her widely read “Food Politics” blog that she, like First Lady Michelle Obama, is particularly concerned about childhood obesity.
A Century of Eating logo
Marion braved a fierce New York snowstorm to be with us at the Economic Research Service on February 26 as we celebrated 100 years of data on American eating, in a product we call the Food Availability Data System. In her keynote speech at the centennial, she indicated that our food availability data are key to explaining obesity trends, referring to the data system as “one of the government’s real jewels.” The food availability data, housed on the ERS web site, are used by nutritionists, food scientists, public health professionals, and policy makers, among others, as a popular proxy for consumption for several hundred foods.

What we term “food availability” is essentially the per capita amount of food available for human consumption. Each year my colleagues and I add together the production and imports of individual foods, and subtract exports and farm and industrial uses of the foods, to arrive at an approximation of what Americans consume on average. For many commodities, we now have data from 1909 to 2008. And data since 1970 are also adjusted for food losses that occur at the farm level, in processing and transportation, and at the retail/restaurant and consumer levels, providing an even closer approximation of what is actually consumed.  This latter data series also provides per capita calories per day for several hundred foods as well as daily per capita serving equivalents that can be combined for the different food groups and compared with Federal dietary recommendations.

The data system can tell researchers and other professionals that per capita cheese consumption, for example, has skyrocketed since the 1970s, and that carbonated soft drink consumption has seen a sharp rise since the 1940s, with a corresponding decline in milk consumption. Data users can compare diet with regular soft drink consumption. The system tracks per capita availability/consumption of vegetables over time, and users can look at numbers for the different varieties of vegetables. Users will find that just three vegetables – potatoes, tomatoes, and corn – continue to lead the pack. These are just a few examples of information that would likely be of interest to anyone concerned about obesity and diet quality.

We like to point out that this data product is the only source of long-term food availability in the country and continues to be a popular proxy for consumption.  Along with my colleague Hodan Farah Wells, I invite you to visit the Food Availability Data System on the web and explore a wealth of information on a century of American eating. A new audio-visual presentation on the site demonstrates some examples of what you can do with this unique data system.

Jean C. Buzby, Economist, USDA’s Economic Research Service

USDA Teams Up with the Smithsonian to Preserve the Past

At an event at the National Museum of American History on Thursday, Kevin Concannon,Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, signed a gift of transfer donating a collection of historic food coupons, proof sheets, early artist designs, printers plates and sample Electronic Benefit Transfer cards showcasing nearly 40 years (1960 – 2009) of the Food Stamp Program (FSP).

These rare materials will become part of the museum’s National Numismatic Collection, which consists of more than 1.5 million objects. The NNC includes materials documenting the history of the early FSP that began with the 1935 Agricultural Adjustment Act and lasted until 1943, as well as other forms of emergency currency, such as clamshells used by Americans during the Great Depression. With the new acquisition, the museum will hold the single most comprehensive research collection pertaining to food coupons.

At the event, US Concannon said “these items represent an important conversion of history in our country,” as he talked about ending the era of food coupons for a more modern “efficient and normative” way to issue benefits. Since 2004, all benefits have been issued electronically, through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, similar to a debit cards.  The newer system provides users confidentiality, de-stigmatizing the program and greatly decreasing incidents of fraud.

The FSP began as a pilot program in the 1960s under President John F. Kennedy. Today’s program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has the highest participation in the program’s history, serving nearly 38 million people, half of whom are children. SNAP is the largest of USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s 15 nutrition assistance programs that work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger.