USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.
School lunches have evolved since many of our childhood days to keep pace with new dietary guidelines and school meal patterns, but one food has been an enduring component: chicken. The popular protein graces the center of the plate in a variety of forms and flavors, and the new USDA Foods unseasoned chicken strip provides school nutrition professionals with a versatile and healthy option to add to their recipes. USDA develops new products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) based on feedback from states and school districts. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how chicken flies the coop from farms to a pilot program to cafeterias across the country.
Did you know that on any given day, USDA Foods comprise 15 to 20 percent of the value of food served on the lunch line, or that the School Year 2015 Foods Available List contains more than 200 options? For more than 70 years, USDA has provided states with 100 percent American grown food for school lunches to support the dual mission of strengthening our nutrition safety net and supporting American agriculture. The unseasoned, non-breaded chicken strip is just the latest contribution to a long history of providing nutritious foods for school meals. Read more »
According to Food Service Director, Todd Bedenbaugh, “since the cafeterias begun promoting Supreme Chicken, sales for this ‘local protein source’ have increased by 25 percent.”
It’s not surprising that chicken, the most popular meat for kids, is being served in school cafeterias across the nation. However, in Columbia, S.C., locally sourced chicken has taken center stage on school meal trays in an effort to increase the state’s Farm to School programming.
South Carolina’s District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties Schools are piloting a poultry project to expand local products offered to students. In partnership with Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, the school district is offering a variety of locally produced products to their students.
This particular Farm to School Program is made possible through the collaboration of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina Department of Agriculture, South Carolina Department of Education, and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute.
By Holly Godwin, South Carolina Farm to Institution Program Director
During the 2013-2014 academic school year, 20 District Five schools of Lexington and Richland Counties (South Carolina) participated in the Supreme Chicken project. This included all 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools. Read more »
Feeding students healthy, tasty and nutritious school meals can be a challenge. Just ask any one of the thousands of school nutrition professionals who carry out the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. They have to balance menu planning following nutrition standards, financial management, and inventory management, all while making meals that will be enjoyed by students – not always an easy audience. It is a testament to their dedication that over 90 percent of America’s schools have now implemented the improved standards found in the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010.
USDA is working hard to find ways to continue to support their efforts. One way we are doing that is a new program that we recently piloted in Mississippi that provides free training through a partnership with the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). The Team Up For School Nutrition Success Training (Team Up) is tailored to schools and covers topics like menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics, and strategies to reduce plate waste.
Another partner in this initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is grateful for the hard work being done in our country’s school cafeterias, but also recognizes that some may need a little help. When she heard about our initiative, she took the time to make a video to not only thank and encourage the dedicated school food service professional around the country, but to encourage them to take advantage of Team Up. Hear with the First Lady had to say about Team Up:
Louis Escobar, Rhode Island Dairy Farmer and President of Rhody Fresh Milk, speaking to students at Ferri Middle School in Johnston.
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 Jane Q Vergnani, Nutrition Specialist for New England Dairy & Food Council
As a transplant Rhode Islander – or as my 4-year-old daughter says, “Little Rhody’er” – who has lived, gone to school and worked as a nutrition specialist for the New England Dairy & Food Council in the state for over seven years, I am passionate about helping students succeed.
Through my work with Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program created by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, in cooperation with the USDA, I have the opportunity to visit and work with many schools throughout Rhode Island. Read more »
Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.
Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches. In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”
By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.
“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program. Read more »
AMS Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller opens the 2014 AMS Annual Industry Meeting for Contractors and Suppliers of USDA’s Commodity Purchase Programs.
When you’re a contract specialist with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), you’re part of a Commodity Procurement team that purchases 1.7 billion pounds of commodities a year to support domestic agriculture. You’re part of a network- which also includes the Food and Nutrition Service, the Farm Service Agency, and hundreds of American agricultural producers, processors, and suppliers- which reaches far and wide to send quality, wholesome, nutritious products that feed students and other recipients in federal food and nutrition assistance programs.