At a very early age, I learned about the value of healthy eating. By the time I was 11 years old and training daily as a gymnast, I knew that eating right would help me achieve my goals. The goals I had for health, athletics, and academic performance were all tied to eating nutritious foods, and that started with breakfast. As an adult, I’ve maintained goals for fitness and health and that’s why I make sure to start each morning with a healthy breakfast.
As a young athlete it was critical to give my body the nutrients it needed to compete at a high level in the gym and in school. I learned about healthy eating by going grocery shopping with my parents and then helping to prepare meals with my family. I was also influenced by the food around me at school. Now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded School Breakfast Program beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, our nation’s youth will now have more options for starting their day off right. Read more »
CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC
Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life. So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »
Our children are our most prized possessions and we must do whatever it takes to help them excel in the future. Leading them on the path to becoming part of a healthier generation, USDA revised the standards for meals and snacks served in their schools. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a New York City high school to see first-hand how students were adjusting to the new standards.
The changes to the meal and snack standards are in response to the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Implemented in the 2012 school year, the new meal standards made several changes. Now, the 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program can enjoy more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods and leaner proteins. The new smart snack standards, which will be implemented July 1, 2014, set minimum requirements for snacks sold in vending machines or as part of a la carte meals sold on campus during school hours. Read more »
Taking action in Ohio for healthy kids. Photo credit: Joe Barbaree
I was recently invited to give a presentation at the 2nd annual Ohio Farm to School Conference. Conference organizers asked me to address the future of farm to school: where did we want to be in ten years?
By chance I’d asked a similar question of colleagues at Portland Public Schools a decade earlier. At the time, we were just starting to incorporate more local and regional products into the cafeteria and we thought a creative writing exercise would help us crystallize our goals and focus our work. Read more »
This week, we are renewing our efforts at USDA to encourage a generational shift to improve childhood nutrition.
Today, too many of our children aren’t getting the nutrition they need. One-third of today’s children are at risk for preventable health problems because of their weight. Only a quarter of our 17 to 24 year old young people are eligible for military service, in part because many of them are overweight or obese. Read more »
School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
USDA recently announced its “Smart Snacks in School” proposal that will help to ensure all foods and beverages sold in schools contribute to a healthy diet. The proposal offers a common sense approach to healthy eating by promoting the availability of snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients, while preserving time-honored school traditions like occasional bake sales and birthday treats.
Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy habits, and our proposal reinforces that hard work by ensuring that kids are offered only tasty, nutritious food options at school. Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, this year students across the country began getting healthier school meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy based on scientific recommendations for nutrition. Through the Act, Congress also directed USDA to set nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, school snack bars and a la carte, as a complement to the new, healthy standards for breakfast and lunch. Read more »