The term “farm to preschool” encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum. Here, USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participates in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA.
“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.
Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Read more »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »