Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)
Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.
As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.
Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed. Read more »
Today a news report claimed that schools across the country are dropping out of the National School Lunch Program because the standards are too difficult to implement.
The truth is that the vast majority of schools across the country are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, which is so important to help all our Nations children lead healthier lives. Even before the new standards took effect and more resources were available, many schools across the country were leading the way with healthier options and appropriate portion sizes. In fact, schools that adopted the changes earlier report that participation increased as students and parents became accustomed to the healthier options. USDA continues to provide additional flexibility and technical assistance to schools as they all now work to offer healthier meals. We also encourage the very few eligible school districts that have chosen not to participate in the program to take steps to ensure all children will still have access to healthy, affordable meals during the school day. Read more »
AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin, a former HACU intern at work. Valentin was an intern with AMS for two years through the HACU National Internship Program. Photo Courtesy of Hakim Fobia, AMS Public Affairs
Reach one, teach one. That is the approach that USDA has taken in its partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program. As a current employee with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and a former HACU intern, I am glad to help continue this tradition.
The HACU National Internship Program helps talented students in more than 400 colleges and universities gain valuable experience through paid internships at federal, private, and non-profit organizations. USDA has been a leading organization working with the program, hosting nearly 1900 HACU student interns since 1994. I am part of the nearly 46% of former HACU interns who earned the opportunity to stay on board with the federal government after finishing my degree. Read more »
School cafeterias across the country are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids.
As we continue to combat childhood obesity in America, I am proud to say that this Back to School season our school cafeterias are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids. Students and schools are embracing the healthier lunches offered through the National School Lunch Program that, together with the healthier breakfasts offered through the School Breakfast Program beginning this school year and the recently announced “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards that kick in next year, continue our children on the path towards future health and happiness.
So how are school cafeterias faring with all the meal updates across the nation? Like I said, they are putting their hearts into it. Read more »
Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, “competitive foods” in schools (a la carte and vending machine items) will be subject to new nutritional standards.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, “competitive foods” in schools will be subject to new nutritional standards. Competitive foods include à la carte cafeteria items like pizza, French fries, and ice cream, as well as snacks and beverages sold in vending machines or at snack bars, school stores, or other locations.
Referred to as “competitive foods” because they compete with meals served through the National School Lunch Program, these foods and beverages are currently inconsistently regulated and frequently high-calorie, low-nutrient options. Competitive foods are more common at secondary than at elementary schools. A 2005 survey revealed that 32 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools offered non-milk a la carte items. Vending machines were found in 27 percent of elementary, 87 percent of middle, and 98 percent of high schools. Read more »
CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC
Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life. So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »