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Posts tagged: HealthierNextGen

USDA Backs Healthy Incentives

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity.  Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often.  To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

One example of how USDA has been working to implement this cultural shift is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) project that was recently conducted in Massachusetts. The goal of this project was to provide SNAP participants greater access to healthy foods and better nutrition through financial incentives at the point of purchase.  Specifically, we tested the impact of providing families with 30 extra cents in SNAP benefits per benefit dollar that they spent on fruits and vegetables.  We were very encouraged by the results.  On average, people who received the incentives ate about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives—a substantial increase! Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Embracing a New Vision of School Nutrition

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director, Midwest Region, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Katherine Elmer-Dewitt, Academy for Global Citizenship

As we approach the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, it’s worthwhile to revisit some of the schools that were at the cutting edge of creating healthier school meals. Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has been a pioneer in serving healthy, delicious school meals that exceed USDA school meals standards. Just as important, students love them! Integral to AGC’s success is a belief in not only serving positive foods but also in creating a culture that supports wellness. The school’s holistic approach relies on parent engagement, physical education, nutrition education, gardening, and more.

The Academy is a recognized national leader in these areas, so much so that Good Morning America visited it in 2011—just after the Act passed—to highlight its work. I was there for the visit and wrote this blog about it. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times since and am honored to share the blog below, written by AGC’s Katherine Elmer-Dewitt. It tells their story and underscores the importance of healthy school food. Read more »

The Cafeteria is the Biggest Classroom in the School

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Linda Mailhot, Head Cook, Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor Maine on September 24, 2014

Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) is a small school with a big vision, located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Here we strive to promote a healthy lifestyle for our students through physical activity and nutrition education.

The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the school where students are taught to make healthy choices for themselves beginning in kindergarten. Students progress each day through a fruit-and-vegetable bar and an entrée station. Along this route they choose the nutritious and appealing foods they need to build a balanced meal according to the new school meal standards issued by USDA. Many of our entrée offerings are multinational, which is a great way to introduce students to nutritional foods from a variety of cultures. By empowering students in the cafeteria, they learn to make healthy choices for life. Read more »

Liberal High School Develops Second Chance Breakfast Program

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Denise Kahler, Communications Director, Kansas State Department of Education

More than 70 percent of Liberal High School’s student population qualify for free or reduced meals. Yet, only 11 percent of the entire student population was taking advantage of the school’s breakfast program.  While we would like to believe that all kids eat a healthy breakfast at home and come to school ready to learn, that’s not reality.  Additionally, most high school kids would rather stay in bed as long as possible or choose to socialize with friends before school instead of taking the time to eat breakfast. For some students, buses don’t arrive at the school early enough for them to participate in the breakfast program and for others, they simply aren’t ready to eat until they’ve been awake for a while. Whatever the case, Liberal High’s breakfast program participation was too low and too many kids were turning to vending machines for snacks to get them through the day.

Knowing that something needed to be done, the school nutrition staff secured the support of the principal and a grant from the Midwest Dairy Council to find a way to increase breakfast participation. Staff knew that whatever they did, it had to be fast (kids only had five minute passing periods), would have to be fuss-free and easy to handle since kids would be taking their breakfast to class, would have to include food items that were appealing to students and included yogurt or cheese every day, and were available in a location that was easily accessible to students. Read more »

Team Up for Success! USDA and Partners Help Secure a Healthier School Day

With kids now back in the classroom, USDA wants to help schools continue to build a healthier, more nutritious environment for their students.  At the same time, we’re deeply committed to ensuring these same schools maintain financial stability and strong student participation in their meal programs.  We’re seeing more and more schools move forward with new and innovative healthy school meals, but we also understand there is a need to share best practices across the country.

Thanks to our partners at the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), we hope to fill that void.  To make this a reality, the group will pilot the Team Up For Success Training Initiative with the assistance of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Office.  Together, they’ll work with school food authorities (SFAs) to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day. Read more »