USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »
Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member
As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option. Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.
With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »
Producers survey a field in the Northeast. Photo Credit: Scott Bauer (2007)
The Northeast Regional Climate Hub covers Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Northern Forests Climate Sub Hub shares this footprint and represents people working and living in the forests of the Northeast.
About 21 percent of land in these 12 states is farmland (6 percent of national total), and 62 percent is classified as timberland (total land area covered by trees is somewhat larger). The northeastern United States is home to about 175,000 farms that collectively produce agricultural commodities worth more than $21 billion per year. The most important commodities in the Northeast are dairy production and poultry, and about half of the field crops (including pasture) grown in the Northeast are for animal feed. Horticulture is a relatively large portion of total plant production in the Northeast, as are perennial fruits such as apples, pears, blueberries, and cranberries. Farms in the Northeast are on average smaller than in many other parts of the country, and a greater percentage of these are operated by women than in the rest of the United States. Organic production is relatively greater than in most other regions. Read more »
Urban farmers like Lashmit and Pierce avoid high land prices by storing their unit in a portion of a parking lot they rent in Marlborough County.
In the traditional sense, farming has always involved purchasing or leasing land to plow, plant, fertilize and harvest. As world population and land prices grow however, urban boundaries continue to expand, pushing farms and ranches farther away from the center of growing cities.
At the same time, many consumers are more aware of where their food is produced, preferring to purchase food grown locally in their communities. This trend pulls agriculture back into the heart of the city, with many agriculture enthusiasts stepping up to support the demand. Read more »
A New England cottontail is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Cape Cod’s beautiful seashore, inlets, salt marshes and woodlands are a natural draw for year-round and vacation home owners, and tourists. A boon for the local economy, the associated development is not so good for an elusive little creature: the New England cottontail rabbit. Habitat loss has New England’s only native rabbit as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Private landowners, conservation groups, a tribe and government agencies have joined forces to restore New England Cottontail habitat throughout New England. In Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod, habitat restoration work at three sites is yielding results. Read more »
USDA and its partners help make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s young people.
This guest blog was submitted by Ellen Parker of Massachusetts’ statewide anti-hunger advocacy organization, Project Bread. As America deals with obesity more than ever, school cafeterias are supporting better nutrition for our kids and echoing public health efforts taking place across the country. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and community partners to continue supporting nutrition guidelines that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people.
By Ellen Parker, Executive Director, Project Bread
At Project Bread, it is our belief that the opposite of hungry is not simply full, but healthy. We constantly strive to ensure that every person, across Massachusetts, has consistent access to fresh, healthy foods that meet their needs. And ensuring children have access to healthy meals in school is a major part of that. Read more »