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Posts tagged: healthy foods

Experience Earth Day with USDA

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers who choose to explore the entire stretch will go through 14 states and on eight national forests. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches 2,175 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers who choose to explore the entire stretch will go through 14 states and on eight national forests. (U.S. Forest Service)

Earth Day is a reminder that some of our best moments can be spent in the great outdoors.

Getting outside is one of the best ways to feel re-invigorated, whether on a short hike to the Crags Trail on Pike National Forest or on a longer exploration of the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, which winds through 14 states and across eight national forests.

The range of outdoor activities run the gamut from hiking, camping, boating, bird watching, and experiencing wildlife to photographing nature, hunting and fishing. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Building Blocks for a Healthier America

At USDA, we are working hard to ensure that America’s next generation has access to the healthy foods they need to grow, learn, achieve, and eventually to compete and succeed on a global stage.

We are focused on feeding a healthier future, but we are also learning that the country as a whole is making the shift towards a more health-conscious society. USDA recently released a study that shows that the diets of American adults are improving. More people are reading nutrition labels and using that information to make healthier food choices at the grocery stores. We are eating out less and sitting down around the supper table with family more. Read more »

Helping Schools Build Better Cafeterias

Food service professionals from Arlington Public Schools discuss the day’s lunch service of Baja Fish Taco Wraps, Turkey Hot Dogs, Cherry Tomatoes w/dip, Baked Beans and Fresh Fruit for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The National School Lunch Program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Food service professionals from Arlington Public Schools discuss the day’s lunch service of Baja Fish Taco Wraps, Turkey Hot Dogs, Cherry Tomatoes w/dip, Baked Beans and Fresh Fruit for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The National School Lunch Program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

As a former school nutrition director, I am amazed when I visit schools around the country and repeatedly witness students clamoring for items like baked kale chips—who would have ever thought that was possible?  Truly, schools have done an absolutely tremendous job of implementing the new meal standards resulting from the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. I am so proud of all that our nation’s school nutrition professionals have done to provide healthier, tasty meals to the millions of children who eat breakfast, lunch and snacks at school each day.

While schools have made—and continue to make—great strides across the whole realm of school nutrition, they are still facing challenges in meeting their goals.  In particular, many schools across the country do not have appropriate or adequate kitchen equipment.  The need for updated equipment is well-documented, most recently by a new Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project report entitled, “Serving Healthy Meals:  U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment,” and ranges from cutting boards to refrigerator space.  While some schools still need a significant investment in updated and upgraded equipment, many of the needs are simple and could cost as little as $32 to remedy! Read more »

Farm to School Programs Can Get Kids Familiar with Healthy Foods

Introducing students to healthy foods early on through farm to school programs is one way to reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted in schools.

Introducing students to healthy foods early on through farm to school programs is one way to reduce the amount of fruits and vegetables wasted in schools.

October was National Farm to School Month and at FNS we ended on a high note. We released our very first nationwide assessment of farm to school activities and there was a lot of good news to be shared. The Farm to School Census showed that adoption of farm to school activities is trending up; many schools that do not currently have farm to school programs are planning to start them, and millions of children are being exposed to healthy foods and learning about where food comes from. In fact, in school year 2011-2012, schools invested over $350 Million in locally produced, healthy food.  This adds up to major benefits for American nutrition and local economies.

But the benefits don’t stop there.  In addition to creating new market opportunities for farmers and producers across the country, farm to school programs are a way to get students familiar with healthy foods so that they don’t throw those items away when they end up on their cafeteria tray. Read more »

Making Moves in Maryland

Last week, I met up with Washington Redskins linebacker Darryl Tapp to help kick off Fuel Up to Play 60’s new Make Your Move effort and see how kids at Kenilworth Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland are eating healthier and getting active at school and at home. Fuel up to Play 60 is a partnership between the National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council.

Tapp and I challenged students to “Make Your Move” by having fun and playing hard while fueling their bodies with healthy foods. My favorite part? Hearing a resounding chorus of “YES!” when I asked students if they liked the healthier breakfasts and lunches served in their cafeteria. Read more »

RISE Volunteers Mentor Young Gardeners

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

In 2011, Washington State University won a USDA People’s Garden School Pilot Project grant. The University used the funds to start the “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” project, a multi-year research project that engages elementary students in creating edible gardens in schools across the country.  School gardens are an effective way to introduce kids to healthy foods and create a passion for agriculture and Washington State is helping lead the way.  We’re excited to provide an update on how the project is going. The following post was written by Brad Gaolach, the Project Director for the program.

Guest post by Brad Gaolach, Project Director, Washington State University Extension

Grandview Elementary School in Monsey, NY is one of 50 schools across the U.S. taking part in USDA’s People’s Garden School Pilot Project – “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” (HGHY). This research and education project aims to understand the impact of school gardens on fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, science and math learning, and other outcomes.

Grandview Elementary also enjoys a unique partnership with another research project: “Retirees in Service to the Environment,” or RISE. Created by Cornell’s Institute for Translational Research on Aging, RISE provides opportunities for older adults to become involved in local environmental projects.  Research has shown there are greater mental and physical health benefits from environmental volunteering compared to other types of service. As environmental stewards, older adults not only gain from being engaged in civic issues, they also contribute their knowledge and passion to sustaining the environment for future generations. Read more »