Making sure children have nutritious meals and keep their bodies moving all year long is one of USDA’s most important missions. Our Summer Food Service Program plays an important role in ensuring that all children get healthy meals during the summertime. We’re proud to say that in 2012, our partners helped to serve 144 million summer meals at 38,800 sites across the country. That translates to 2.3 million children served on a typical summer day.
But there is still a lot of work to be done. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of kids who rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year participate in the summer program. So this year we’ve set out to serve 5 million more summer meals. We need your help to meet that goal. Read more »
Join @USDANutrition for a Twitter chat on Summer Meals tomorrow at 3pmET. Use #summermeals to participate.
Want to help feed kids when school gets out? The USDA is hosting a “Help Serve #SummerMeals This Year” Twitter Town Hall this Friday, April 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm EST to inform and inspire organizations across the country to become a summer meal site when school lets out this year. The Twitter Town Hall will feature USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon as well as partner organizations including the Food Research and Action Center, D.C. Hunger Solutions, New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and Food Bank of the Rockies. Summer meal sites can be almost anywhere including parks, recreation centers, schools, libraries, places of worship, hospitals, and even mobile food trucks. If you have questions like: Read more »
A young dad checks his shopping list as he passes by the produce section of a grocery store. With nearly one third of children in America at risk for preventable diseases, proper nutrition early in life can help set the stage for healthier dietary and lifestyle habits and future success in school. Photo provided by Thinkstock.
I recently had the pleasure of addressing a meeting marking the landmark first phase of the B-24 Project, a collaborative initiative between USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop dietary recommendations for children from birth to 24 months of age. As existing Federal dietary guidance is designed for those two years and older, the end result of the B-24 project will fill an important gap and provide consistency in maternal, infant and toddler nutrition advice given across government and external organizations. 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 »
As the Federal agency responsible for carrying out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s mission, we are constantly taking actions to improve program integrity. In 2012, we enacted tougher financial sanctions to punish those who abuse the program; sent letters to the CEOs of Ebay, Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist to engage their help in preventing the sale or purchase of SNAP benefits online; and began requiring increased documentation for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits. Last year, the program reached a record level of payment accuracy, and fraud has been reduced to the lowest rate in the history of the program. In 2013, we expect to do even more to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.
But spending taxpayer dollars with integrity also means ensuring that the benefits provided through SNAP are actually able to do what they’re intended to do—provide healthy food to families. While the program has a strong track record of success, its size and reach underscore the importance of periodic review to ensure that the resources it provides accurately reflect the real-world circumstances in which SNAP households find themselves today; circumstances that directly affect their ability to make healthy food choices within a limited budget. Read more »
It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The Act cleared the way for historic improvements to the child nutrition programs, such as school lunch and school breakfast, that serve millions of our nation’s children. We’ve already implemented many provisions of the Act, with many schools reporting success in meeting the new standards, and students finding the new school meals to be an improvement from the status quo. This coming year will be a busy one as we continue to make program updates that help us fight both child hunger and obesity.
Because of the Act, we’ve been able to improve standards for the content of school lunches—and soon school breakfasts— making them healthier than ever before. However, I know implementation is a process that takes time, and as the school year progresses we will continue listening and providing additional education, technical assistance, and flexibilities where appropriate. Throughout this first year, we are closely monitoring implementation and adapting the support we provide to States and schools based on challenges that arise.
We also made the first real reimbursement rate increase for those meals in 30 years to help schools adjust to the changes. Because we know how influential the school environment can be when it comes to encouraging kids to make healthy choices, USDA will propose new standards for other foods sold in schools including in vending machines. Read more »