Louis Escobar, Rhode Island Dairy Farmer and President of Rhody Fresh Milk, speaking to students at Ferri Middle School in Johnston.
The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank them for sharing their stories!
By Jane Q Vergnani, Nutrition Specialist for New England Dairy & Food Council
As a transplant Rhode Islander – or as my 4-year-old daughter says, “Little Rhody’er” – who has lived, gone to school and worked as a nutrition specialist for the New England Dairy & Food Council in the state for over seven years, I am passionate about helping students succeed.
Through my work with Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program created by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in cooperation with the USDA, I have the opportunity to visit and work with many schools throughout Rhode Island. Read more »
As schools across the country were winding down for the summer, the conversation around school meals standards was heating up. School districts, parents, community members and Congressional representatives have engaged in an important discussion about the role of the new standards in our nation’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Created to boost the health of our next generation, the standards encourage schools to get more creative and health-conscious about the food they serve to their students. Last month, USDA joined the National Hispanic Medical Association to reinforce this critical message.
During a Congressional briefing held by the National Hispanic Medical Association, dozens convened to learn how the Latino community was leveraging the new standards to support healthier lifestyles for their children. While the association focused on educational and healthcare institutions heightening awareness around nutrition programs, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Administrator, Jesus Mendoza, underscored the importance of healthy eating, emphasizing his experiences with the new standards in his region. “Since the passing of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act,” Mendoza explained, “kids are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, 90 percent of schools report that they are able to abide by the standards, more water is being offered to our children in cafeterias, and we’re exposing kids to foods they’ve never seen or heard of before.” Read more »
Today, USDA proposed the establishment of minimum national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
The standards, another key provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), aim to institute education and certification standards for school nutrition professionals. These new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals.
As a former school nutrition director I can tell you that school nutrition professionals across the country are pleased with the new meal patterns established by the HHFKA, which requires schools to prepare healthier meals for 32 million children each day. Schools are at the forefront of national efforts to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our Nation’s children. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service crewmember Bill Scripp finishes the job of sawing downed trees at Forest Park in Queens, NY on Nov. 4, 2012 to make passage safe for residents. The park is a major walking thoroughfare, including popular recreational trails. Bill Scripp belongs to the Wayne National Forest, in Ohio Valley, OH. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.
All this week, Americans are pausing to reflect on the devastation caused when Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore on the eastern seaboard. Over 160 people died, property was damaged, lives were disrupted, families were torn apart and jobs were affected.
USDA helped the recovery effort in a number of ways, and while we are proud of our work, we also learned from the experience in order to assist those affected by future catastrophes.
Our first task was helping those who were facing hunger. Following a disaster, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides nutrition assistance to disaster survivors through disaster USDA Foods Distribution Programs and by authorizing the implementation of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D SNAP). In addition, FNS approves waivers that simplify the SNAP benefit replacement process to aid ongoing SNAP households affected by a disaster. Read more »
You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu. These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions. We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.
The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches. However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs. Read more »
A student works hard on her assignment while eating a grab ‘n’ go breakfast in Mikelle Caine’s second grade advance class at Lake Forest Elementary School, Sandy Springs, Ga., (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).
Some say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I have to agree especially when it comes to children. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast helps keep kids alert and focused on learning rather than lunch. But not every child eats a nutritious breakfast at home. In fact, even though 32 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program each day, only 12 million students eat a school breakfast daily. That means we have to continue to work to get those school breakfast numbers up! Read more »