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Posts tagged: National School Lunch Program

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

Stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale

A students’ favorite: stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale.

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds. Read more »

Back to School, Back to Healthier School Meals

Children eating school meals

Nutritious school meals keep students healthy and ready to learn.

It’s hard to believe the start of the school year is right around the corner. It feels like just yesterday the final bell rang, and students exchanged their pens and pencils for swim trunks and sunglasses. But it’s time for students, teachers and other school staff to get ready for the year ahead, and that includes school nutrition professionals who will soon be tasked with serving healthy school meals to over 30 million students nationwide.

This past year, America’s school nutrition professionals did some phenomenal work, and I look forward to picking up right where we left off. Today, more than 96 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards, serving healthy meals approved by nutritionists and students alike. A recent study found that kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at school — not to mention more whole grains, low-fat dairy, and  lean protein, than they were before the new meal standards.  I’m certain that through continued collaboration with our partners and food professionals, this school year will bring even more progress toward a healthier, hunger-free generation. Read more »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »

Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »

USDA Agencies, Suppliers and Vendors Taking Steps to Improve USDA Foods Purchase Process

Fresh vegetable cups at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Just after the ACDA event concluded, we met in California with producers and processors about our fruit and vegetable purchases for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). These meetings are another example of the steps we take to learn from our stakeholders and improve USDA Foods products. USDA Photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commodity purchases play an important role in supporting American agriculture.  One commodity purchasing effort – the USDA Foods Program – purchases about 2 billion pounds of nutritious, domestically produced foods each year and supplies this food to families, schools, food banks, and communities nationwide, also serving as a key tool for combatting hunger.

Together, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service and Farm Service Agency manage the USDA Foods Program. And together, we have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA’s food procurement practices to improve the program for our customers and stakeholders. Read more »