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Posts tagged: National School Lunch Program

Cooking Up Change Competition Kicks Off in Chicago

“Cooking Up Change” involved more than one hundred students and over 700 guests.

“Cooking Up Change” involved more than one hundred students and over 700 guests.

This November I served as a judge in the 2013-14 kick off Cooking Up Change competition here in Chicago. What is “Cooking Up Change”?  It’s a culinary competition sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign that challenges Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and others across the U.S to create and prepare meals that are healthy and tasty and also follow National School Lunch Program requirements. This competition empowers students to have a voice about school meals and nutrition. On top of that, it’s a lot of fun for everyone involved!

The day of the competition I prepared by reviewing the rules, reading meal requirements, and skipping lunch. When I arrived at the event, I was impressed to see how many fellow judges there were and the wide range of food experts sitting around me. The competition got started and teams from fourteen schools started presenting their meals to us. The students brought in three or four cafeteria trays and gave each judge a sample. Judging was based on visual appearance, taste, presentation, and originality. Some students set themselves apart by being very well-polished when explaining the dishes, or by adding some creativity with music and costumes that reflected the meal’s ethic background. The competition was really tough, and ranking thee dishes was no easy task. Every meal had something that stood out, and often I found myself saying “I would order this at a restaurant!” Each dish was so delicious that by the end I could not eat one more bite! Read more »

The Domino Effect of One Purchase

Bread for the City CEO George Jones (far left) shows the organization’s rooftop garden to AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (right with black coat and grey shirt), AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (far right), Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon (middle), and FNS Associate Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Jessica Shahin (middle left).

Bread for the City CEO George Jones (far left) shows the organization’s rooftop garden to AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (right with black coat and grey shirt), AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (far right), Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon (middle), and FNS Associate Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Jessica Shahin (middle left).

Sometimes one action can have a ripple effect—an impact that spreads outward, touching much more than just the immediate surroundings.  We see it all the time in the process of agriculture. Weather changes crop yields, then ripples through the supply chain, impacting everything from the local economy to the national average of transportation costs.  Sometimes the ripple effect is set off by something as simple as buying apples.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), buys food for nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food assistance programs like food banks.  The obvious impacts, or ripple effects, of these purchases are benefits to our nation’s children and putting food on the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet.  But the ripple effect of these purchases doesn’t stop there. Read more »

Bringing New Markets to Puerto Rico’s Producers

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

In any business venture, the key to reaching a new market is starting with accurate and comprehensive information. For American agricultural producers and suppliers looking at USDA feeding programs as a potential market, having a clear understanding of the rules, regulations and requirements is the best start on the path to success. USDA encourages new businesses to participate by providing information through our websites, publications, and conferences. Recently, we attended Puerto Rico’s 2013 Market Expansion Conference to encourage new businesses to consider our programs.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is part of a team of seven USDA agencies that attended this conference to strengthen Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector. Read more »

Thanksgiving – Brought to You by the American Farmer

An infographic exploring the traditional Thanksgiving meal, brought to you by the American Farmer. Click to see a larger version.

An infographic exploring the traditional Thanksgiving meal, brought to you by the American Farmer. Click to see a larger version.

Thanksgiving is a time when Americans come together to celebrate a holiday that connects each and every one of us. During this truly American holiday, we all give thanks for the previous year’s blessings and look ahead to the future. While we may bring our own traditions and flavors to the table, Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to celebrate our country’s rich history.

It has always been a special holiday to me, but this past year I developed an even greater appreciation for all that goes in to producing the Thanksgiving meal. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I spent the last six months visiting with American farmers and learning about their businesses. In my conversations with American farmers and ranchers, I am always impressed by their work ethic, ingenuity, and dedication to making sure their customers get the best products. It’s no wonder that our nation’s farmers were responsible for producing nearly 7.5 trillion pounds of turkey in 2012—nearly half the world’s supply!—and are leaders when it comes to many other foods regularly featured in Thanksgiving meals.  In 2012, American farmers also produced 3.1 billion pounds of sweet corn and nearly 2.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.

Read more »

USDA Partners with FoodCorps to Grow Healthy Eaters

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

They are t-shirted and tilling up soil in schools across the country. And this year, thanks to a new partnership, FoodCorps service members have USDA at their side.

FoodCorps is a national service organization that places emerging leaders in schools across the country to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into schools participating in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs.

USDA is pleased to support the FoodCorps model; their recipe for success includes three main ingredients: Read more »

On the One Year Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, USDA Looks Ahead

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.

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 »