Child at a school food pantry. Image provided by Feeding America.
During March, National Nutrition Month®, USDA will highlight various nutrition topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We don’t work on these issues alone however. This guest blog post acknowledges one USDA National Strategic Partner, Feeding America, for the outstanding work they do to address childhood hunger and food insecurity and promote MyPlate. Learn more below:
By Jessica Hager, MA in Social Service Administration, Nutrition Coordinator, Feeding America
Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of one’s life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.9 million children—1 in 5—under the age of 18 in America live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life (Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. Table 1B.USDA ERS.) Additionally, Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2013 research found that 20 percent or more of the child population in each of 37 states and D.C. live in food-insecure households (Map the Meal Gap 2013, Feeding America).
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Students from Harmony Hills Elementary School in Md. bonded – via Skype – with students from Dairy Primary School in Scotland on the first International School Meals Day.
Visiting schools around the country to discuss the importance of health and nutrition with students and educators is one of the favorite parts of my job. Today, I had the opportunity to share these nutrition messages globally! On this day, USDA recognized the second annual International School Meals Day (ISMD), where schools around the world celebrate by promoting healthy eating and learning. This year’s theme was “Food Stories.”
I joined students and staff at Watkins Mill High School, an International Baccalaureate World School in Gaithersburg, Md., to highlight the occasion. There, a select group of students from the International Cultures and Cuisine class shared their school food and nutrition experiences via Skype with other high school students from Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough, England. Read more »
A favorite U.S. Forest Service book for kids is “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” which explains to children that, yes, there are reasons to cut trees. (U.S. Forest Service)
The U.S. Government Bookstore, the place where you can buy the 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar for $20 or a loose-leaf copy of the Export Administration Regulation 2013 edition for $199, released its list of best-selling publications for 2013 that includes several items published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Why Would Anyone Cut A Tree Down?” is written by Roberta Burzynski, who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry unit. The book shows children the life cycle of trees and how trees are a renewable resource. The 41-page book with 28 full-color illustrations can be used by parents and teachers along with online activities and lessons. Colorfully illustrated by Juliette Watts, the $10 book is ideal for parents, teachers and children. Burzynski also wrote the popular “Woodsy Owl’s ABCs” that is meant to be read by an adult to children. Read more »
Today, USDA proposed the establishment of minimum national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
The standards, another key provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), aim to institute education and certification standards for school nutrition professionals. These new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals.
As a former school nutrition director I can tell you that school nutrition professionals across the country are pleased with the new meal patterns established by the HHFKA, which requires schools to prepare healthier meals for 32 million children each day. Schools are at the forefront of national efforts to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our Nation’s children. Read more »
USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum: The Changing Face of Agriculture logo
Organic, conventional, locally grown and natural – these are all terms consumers hear every day, but do they really understand their meaning? Are consumers making informed purchasing decisions or are they simply making food decisions based on what they hear in popular culture and media?
On Friday, February 21, 2014, join a group of farmers and ranchers, nutritionists and food pundits for a discussion on food production, nutrition and making healthy food choices. Part of the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum and hosted by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance® (USFRA®), the in-person and live-streamed Food Dialogues® event “Nutrition: Who’s Shaping America’s Eating Habits?” looks at important issues for consumers and producers. Read more »
“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 »