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Posts tagged: National School Lunch Program

USDA Relies on Feedback to Help Schools, Children Adapt to New Meal Standards

Hummus and Pita Bread, Sunflower butter string cheese and fruit, Turkey and cheese sandwiches prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Hummus and Pita Bread, Sunflower butter string cheese and fruit, Turkey and cheese sandwiches prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

As many schools wind down for the year, USDA is gearing up for exciting new improvements designed to make the 2014-2015 school year even healthier for our nation’s future leaders.  It’s a commitment rooted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  In that legislation, USDA is directed to update the school meals to reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The new school meal requirements are intended to ensure children get the nutrition they need for academic performance and overall health.  That’s a mission USDA takes seriously. Feeding kids, and feeding them well, can be a challenge.  I understand that as a former school nutrition director, mother, and now grandmother.   Plus, we know that change, in general, can be difficult. That is why we are working closely with schools to make sure the transition to the updated standards runs as smoothly as possible.  We are listening to what school nutritional professionals, teachers, parents and students are telling us.  These partners are the heart and soul of the school community and we have provided flexibilities based on their important feedback. Read more »

Cinco de Mayo Event Offers an Opportunity to Promote Healthy Lifestyles

LULAC President Margaret Moran (in white) visits the USDA booth and discusses summer meals with an FNS employee. (photo by Luis Nuno Briones)

LULAC President Margaret Moran (in white) visits the USDA booth and discusses summer meals with an FNS employee. (photo by Luis Nuno Briones)

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo last week, we here at the Food and Nutrition Service had the chance to participate in the 22nd National Cinco de Mayo Festival® Latinos Living Healthy Feria de Salud, sponsored by the League of Latino American Citizens (LULAC). The exciting event, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., brought together Latino community members, health professionals, major corporations and other stakeholders to highlight the significance of healthy eating and physical activity in the Hispanic community.

We partnered with LULAC to emphasize the importance of a nutritious diet and staying active in our often hectic everyday lives.  The festival provided an opportunity to highlight the many programs FNS has available to help children and low-income families.  Of the thousands of people who arrived at the fairgrounds, many dropped by the FNS-hosted booth to learn about our resources, especially as summer approaches and kids are out of school. Read more »

USDA’s Innovative Technology Streamlines Federal Food Purchasing Logistics

WBSCM enabled the ordering, procurement, and delivery of 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

WBSCM enabled the ordering, procurement, and delivery of 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

Logistics is not just a fancy buzz word; it is the oil that keeps the engine of an interconnected global market running smoothly. For U.S. food purchasing agencies, logistics means ordering, procuring, and delivering nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. It means using the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) – a tool developed by USDA that helped hundreds of companies deliver quality foods to recipients in the National School Lunch Program, other federal food assistance programs and even victims of disasters.

Before it could facilitate the ordering and delivery of all these foods, WBSCM had to integrate the business processes and needs of recipient agencies, external vendors/contractors and employees from five agencies with unique missions. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) are all USDA agencies, while the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an entirely different department. Creating a system that successfully tracks data covering the entire process – from gathering orders and soliciting bids to making sure that vendors are paid – was not an easy task. It requires a reliable, flexible system and an efficient staff to make it all come together. Read more »

California Food for California Kids, Especially on Thursdays

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

I collect aprons like other people collect coins. There are dozens hanging in my kitchen, so many I suspect several have never actually been used. So it was with some self-consciousness that I accepted yet another apron last fall from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The Center was handing out hundreds of aprons to California school food service directors along with recipes for healthy school meals. At the Palm Springs Convention Center, tables were lined with ingredients, tools of the trade such as mixing bowls and measuring cups, and two burner stoves. Our task was to locate our group and get cooking; we’d be making lunch not for hungry children but for hungry conference attendees at the California Food for California Kids conference. Read more »

How Research Shapes Vital Nutrition Programs

Nutritional research is key to helping millions of Americans achieve healthier lifestyles.

Nutritional research is key to helping millions of Americans achieve healthier lifestyles.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as using research to inform policy decisions about our nutrition assistance programs, which reach 1 in 4 Americans.

America’s nutrition safety net has a broad reach.  SNAP serves millions of hardworking American families, WIC benefits about half of the nation’s infants each year, and the National School Lunch Program touches the lives of about 31 million children every school day, including 21 million low-income children.  Because these and other Federal nutrition assistance programs are a critical resource for families seeking a healthy diet with limited resources, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service knows the importance of shaping them with evidence gathered from rigorous research.

Several flagship studies illustrate how FNS uses research to build the knowledge base about our programs and make continuous improvements to meet the highest nutrition standards: Read more »

USDA, Partners Gearing Up for Summer Meal Service

Children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Last week, about 250 Ohio lawmakers, educators, nonprofit directors, community leaders and others came together at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank for the third annual statewide Summer Food Service Summit. The focus of this summit was USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, as efforts are ramping up to ensure that all eligible children have access to healthy meals this summer.

In Ohio, over 630,000 children receive free or reduced-price school meals (based on family income) through the National School Lunch Program during the school year. Yet, only about 60,000—less than one in ten–participate in the Summer Food Service Program. This means that well over half a million children across the state may be at risk of food insecurity or hunger during the summer months, when they no longer have access to meals at school. Read more »