A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!
This week is National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week, an important time to emphasize USDA’s commitment to ensure children and teens have access to safe, nutritious meals when school lets out. Through the Summer Food Service Program, federal assistance is provided for state agencies and non-profit sponsors to help children in eligible high-need areas get the proper nutrition they need during the summer when schools are not in session.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students across the country are getting healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium. With more than 90 percent of schools meeting the healthy meal standards, children are getting the nutrition needed to reach their full potential. But poor nutrition during the summer months can also affect children’s academic performance during the school year. USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. Read more »
Magaly Valentin (left), and Rosalba Gomez (right) Arlington Food Services prepare fresh salads and vegetable cups for the National School Lunch Program in the kitchen at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. USDA Photo: Bob Nichols.
Cross posted from the Huffington Post:
As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s schools. Each day, millions of America’s young people are educated, fed and nurtured in these academic “villages.” A crucial aspect of each child’s education is learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. School nutrition employees and school nurses play critical roles in this mission, and I am fortunate to witness, first-hand, the dedication of these professionals as I visit USDA school lunch and breakfast programs around the country.
Over the next few days, we have the opportunity to pay tribute to those who work so hard to ensure the health of our children at school. On Friday, we celebrated National School Lunch Hero Day, a time to recognize hardworking school nutrition employees nationwide. This week, we are continuing to honor these professionals during National School Nutrition Employee Week. Both events allow us to demonstrate our gratitude to those who dedicate their careers to preparing and serving healthy meals to our nation’s children. Read more »
Children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Last week, about 250 Ohio lawmakers, educators, nonprofit directors, community leaders and others came together at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank for the third annual statewide Summer Food Service Summit. The focus of this summit was USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, as efforts are ramping up to ensure that all eligible children have access to healthy meals this summer.
In Ohio, over 630,000 children receive free or reduced-price school meals (based on family income) through the National School Lunch Program during the school year. Yet, only about 60,000—less than one in ten–participate in the Summer Food Service Program. This means that well over half a million children across the state may be at risk of food insecurity or hunger during the summer months, when they no longer have access to meals at school. Read more »
New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
Each and every school day, over 30 million children participate in USDA’s school meals programs; many of these children consume two or more of their daily meals at school. There’s no denying that school food plays a critical role in children’s diets, and USDA takes this responsibility very seriously. We are committed to doing our part to ensure a healthier next generation!
Given public concern about our children’s current and future health, USDA has issued updated school meal standards stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These science-based standards call for increasing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, while at the same time limiting less healthy fats, sugar, sodium and excess calories. Schools across the country are stepping up to the plate. In fact, about 90% of schools across the country are already meeting the updated standards! That’s not to say that their work is done. Some schools have found that they lack the necessary equipment or tools to prepare healthy meals for all students. Read more »
More than 4,200 markets and direct marketing farmers now redeem SNAP benefits across the country. Farmers’ market incentive programs, which couple access to healthy foods with incentives to purchase healthy products while at the market, help SNAP recipients consume a healthy diet.
As spring marches closer, farmers markets across the country are ramping up or reopening for the season. In addition to year-round staples like local milk, meat, and grains, the stars of the season—asparagus, onions, new potatoes, lamb, and greens of all varieties—are beginning to make their debuts. In a few months’ time, the markets will be in full swing, bursting with berries and zucchini and other summer fruits and vegetables. Here at USDA, we’re working hard to ensure participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have access to this healthful, local bounty.
Remarkable progress has been made in providing better access to the nation’s 8,200 farmers markets and farm stands; more than 4,200 markets and direct marketing farmers now redeem SNAP benefits. Beyond providing heightened access to farmers markets, we know that coupling access with incentives to purchase healthy products while at the market helps SNAP recipients consume a healthy diet. A new report from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service makes clear that private sector organizations share the goal of increasing access and incentives, and are willing to dedicate financial resources to ensuring the success of this approach. Researchers for the Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study interviewed representatives from more than 100 organizations that provide financial incentives to SNAP participants redeeming their benefits at farmers markets. Wholesome Wave is a great example of a not-for-profit organization that partners with 305 farmers markets in 24 states with nutrition incentive programs for doubling SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market vouchers at farmers markets. Read more »
Cross posted from the Huffington Post:
Last Friday, I celebrated School Breakfast Week with a lively group of students at William H. Hunter Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was joined by the Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools and various state officials as I participated in an event which emphasized the important role of the USDA School Breakfast Program in fostering a healthier next generation. This year’s celebration was extra special, with news that total program participation grew by more than 24 percent nationwide over the last six years. Nearly 14 million of our nation’s school children are now eating school breakfast each day.
Here’s why that’s so important: A well-balanced breakfast offers an important nutritional foundation for a productive and healthy day, at any age. School breakfast fosters success in the classroom, and also plays a critical role in helping children develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. Read more »