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Posts tagged: Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

Building a Better Future for our Children

We know that making sure our children have access to a good education and nutritious food helps put them on a path to success. Building a strong foundation for our nation’s youth means ensuring they have all the tools in place to grow up healthy and strong. However, too many American children live in households where healthy food is not always available. In remote areas especially, families still often face barriers to getting the education and healthcare that they need.  That’s why USDA invests in initiatives that boost nutrition, invest in important rural infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and farmers markets, and help our nation’s rural families access crucial resources they need to give their kids a strong start to life.

Because the importance of a healthy start cannot be overstated, we begin August by celebrating National Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program Breastfeeding Week in conjunction with Farmers Market Week. Breastfeeding provides health, nutritional, economic and emotional benefits to both mother and baby, which is why WIC provides support for breastfeeding mothers.  WIC has a significant, positive impact on the overall health of children and over half of the infants in the United States participate in the program. Read more »

Rural Community Development Spurs Growth

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Though many of us don’t see farmers every day, we certainly see and benefit from the products of their farms every day. Rural America makes many cameos in urban and suburban life, from the array of foods we eat to the sweaters our Olympic and sports champions wear and the batteries that power our cars. A recent White House blog states that although Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth. Infrastructure development, technological advancement and school improvement can contribute significantly to rural and community development strategies that could spur economic growth. USDA is committed to spreading the Nation’s prosperity to rural areas, and has a long history of funding programs aimed at promoting rural America. Read more »

Team Up for School Nutrition Success

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden. (Photo credit: Dallas Independent School District)

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Heart Association. The association is a tireless advocate for supporting nutritious options in all environments, including the workplace, grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.  AHA recently participated in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, connecting them with school nutrition professionals and other partners dedicated to supporting healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

By Kristy Anderson, Government Relations Manager, American Heart Association

It’s the number one killer of Americans and it costs the most to treat. Yet 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases would disappear if we practiced a little prevention such as eating right and exercising more. Read more »

Behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Matt Russell

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.

“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”

So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »

New Training Tracker Tool Now Available to School Nutrition Professionals

Professional Standards Tracking Tool screenshot

The ‘Enter Training Information’ page of the Professional Standards Tracking Tool provides training information for a school or school district’s employees. (Click to enlarge)

As a former school nutrition director, I can tell you that school nutrition professionals are dedicated to serving nutritious meals to their students and committed to making the new meal patterns work.  Established by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the new standards require schools to prepare healthier meals for the nearly 31 million children who rely on them each and every school day. At USDA, we understand school nutrition professionals are on the front lines every day as we all work together to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our nation’s children….and we’re glad we have them in our corner!

In March, USDA announced the final rule to establish national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition personnel who manage and operate our meal programs. The rule establishes education and training standards to ensure personnel have the training and tools to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy foods.  These strategies will support our hardworking school nutrition professionals as they create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals for our kids. Read more »

Direct Certification Improves Low-Income Children’s Access to Healthy School Meals, Boosts Program Efficiency

Students at the Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Connecticut enjoying lunchtime

Direct certification can increase access to free school meals for eligible students.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to helping America’s children get the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.  Direct certification for school meals is one important strategy to make that possible for the low-income children.  This process links student enrollment records to states’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program data, so children receiving SNAP or TANF can be directly certified for free school meals without having to submit additional paperwork through applications. 

By using data already verified through SNAP and TANF, direct certification improves efficiency and accuracy for schools.  Just as importantly, families are spared the burden of a separate meals application.  Congress made direct certification a requirement for all schools through the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. Read more »