A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.
I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC). They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table.
With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems. I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems. Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »
Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch.
Every day, millions of students across the U.S. walk into school with stomachs growling because they haven’t had enough to eat either that morning or the night before and eagerly anticipate getting a school breakfast. Hours later, when the lunch bell rings, the same students jet to the front of the line to make sure they get enough food to tide them over until their next meal. For many students, school meals are not a luxury or a backup in case they forget to pack a meal; they are a lifeline.
At a time when 8.6 million U.S. children lack consistent access to food at home, the availability of nutritious meals at school is more important than ever. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools to not only feed more kids, but can help with the bottom line. Read more »
The Breakfast in the Classroom Program provides students a healthy start to their day.
The following guest blog highlights the important work of one of our nation’s many hardworking child nutrition professionals. As a recent participant in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Thomas J. Smith learned about best practices, strategies and resources to ensure healthy meals are provided to his schools’ most needy students.
By Thomas J. Smith, Director of Child Nutrition, Archdiocese of New York – Department of Education
The primary mission of The Child Nutrition Program, at the Archdiocese of New York-Department of Education, is to ensure that healthy and nutritious meals are provided to our most needy students. Over 20,000 meals are served on a daily basis. Meals are served to our recipient agency schools throughout the Archdiocese of New York. As a result, we serve over 4-million meals between breakfast, lunch, afterschool snack and fresh fruits and vegetables each year. Read more »
The Mushroom Council website has information to help schools incorporate mushrooms in popular meals like beef hamburgers and sloppy joes. Photo courtesy of the Mushroom Council.
Sometimes the right blend can change your perception. One of our industry research and promotion programs is remixing school meal items to help change students’ preconceptions and get them to eat healthy foods.
The Mushroom Council helped out on this front in a number of ways. The Council, which is overseen by our agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – encouraged schools to use recipes that added mushrooms to their beef burgers. By reducing some of the beef and adding the hearty texture of mushrooms, schools were able to increase student consumption of healthy meals without compromising taste. Read more »
Nutritious school meals keep students healthy and ready to learn.
It’s hard to believe the start of the school year is right around the corner. It feels like just yesterday the final bell rang, and students exchanged their pens and pencils for swim trunks and sunglasses. But it’s time for students, teachers and other school staff to get ready for the year ahead, and that includes school nutrition professionals who will soon be tasked with serving healthy school meals to over 30 million students nationwide.
This past year, America’s school nutrition professionals did some phenomenal work, and I look forward to picking up right where we left off. Today, more than 96 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards, serving healthy meals approved by nutritionists and students alike. A recent study found that kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at school — not to mention more whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, than they were before the new meal standards. I’m certain that through continued collaboration with our partners and food professionals, this school year will bring even more progress toward a healthier, hunger-free generation. Read more »
KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.
Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.
Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »