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Posts tagged: National School Lunch Program

“True Food” and True Fun in Minneapolis

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest.  We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race.  Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!

Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »

Embracing a New Vision of School Nutrition

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

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 Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director, Midwest Region, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Katherine Elmer-Dewitt, Academy for Global Citizenship

As we approach the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, it’s worthwhile to revisit some of the schools that were at the cutting edge of creating healthier school meals. Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has been a pioneer in serving healthy, delicious school meals that exceed USDA school meals standards. Just as important, students love them! Integral to AGC’s success is a belief in not only serving positive foods but also in creating a culture that supports wellness. The school’s holistic approach relies on parent engagement, physical education, nutrition education, gardening, and more.

The Academy is a recognized national leader in these areas, so much so that Good Morning America visited it in 2011—just after the Act passed—to highlight its work. I was there for the visit and wrote this blog about it. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times since and am honored to share the blog below, written by AGC’s Katherine Elmer-Dewitt. It tells their story and underscores the importance of healthy school food. Read more »

Be Prepared! Do YOU Know USDA’s Role in Helping Families Following Disasters and Emergencies?

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

Ensuring our Nation’s children and families in need have access to healthy meals is a priority at USDA and that promise is of particular emphasis during times of disaster or emergency.  Throughout National Preparedness Month this September, USDA recognizes the importance of being ready and wants the public to know the resources available to them during a time of great need.

When disasters strike, it’s not only important for you and your family to be prepared, it’s also critical that your community be prepared.  USDA supports local communities by providing access to healthy meals in emergency situations.  Schools, emergency shelters, and summer sites that operate the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, or Summer Food Service programs may provide access to healthy meals for children in such events.  Child care institutions may also serve as emergency shelters in a disaster situation. Read more »

Produce Pilot Ready to Take Root in Schools

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Whether it’s trying on a new pair of shoes or eating a new item from your favorite restaurant, there’s always a feeling of excitement when you try something new. Here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we get that same feeling when we are able to create new opportunities for our nation’s producers. That’s why we’re excited to announce that AMS and our sister agency—the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)—have launched a new pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The new pilot program—established by the 2014 Farm Bill—is part of USDA’s continued commitment to create and expand opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers.  The pilot will open doors for American producers, giving them an additional opportunity to supply quality, fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in up to eight states. Read more »

Small State Comes Up Big with Healthy Summer Meals and Engaging Activities for Kids

FNS Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski, with youth at a summer meals site run by the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.

FNS Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski, with youth at a summer meals site run by the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to see the many happy faces of children playing on the recreational fields of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.  They were there as part of a Summer Food Service Program showcasing USDA’s Eat Smart. Play Hard Campaign. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement generated by the Power Panther, the campaign’s mascot, as he danced through the crowd of more than 500 young people. And after enjoying face painting and organized games, the kids were able to relax and enjoy a healthy cook-out style meal.

When school lets out, millions of our nation’s children no longer have access to healthy school breakfast or lunches. Of the 21 million children who receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year, only 3.5 million participate in summer meal programs.   USDA’s summer meals programs aim to fill the hunger gap for our children, and by the looks of the impressive site in southern Delaware, they were meeting that goal. Read more »

Studies Find Widespread Student Acceptance of New Healthier School Lunches

School meals play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people. FNS photo.

School meals play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people. FNS photo.

With nearly 31 million students now participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, sound nutrition at school plays an essential role in supporting a healthier next generation.  But when the new standards were developed by pediatricians and other child nutrition experts, USDA was also looking for students to enjoy the healthier offerings they receive.

And according to a new report, the majority of our nation’s children are accepting these new school meals.  This great news is part of a just-released study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that finds 70 percent of elementary school leaders nationwide reported that students like the healthier school lunches that rolled out in fall 2012.  Other highlights of the research include: Read more »