Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 enabled the U.S Department of Agriculture to make historic changes to the meals served in our nation’s schools. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks sold during the school day are now more nutritious than ever, with less fat and sodium and more whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. For many kids, the meals they get at school may be the only nutritious meals they receive that day — and when children receive proper nourishment, they are not only healthier, but they also have better school attendance and perform better academically. It’s not enough, though, to make the meals healthier — we must ensure that children have access to those healthier foods.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized a program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), that can help schools achieve their educational goals by ensuring that children in low-income communities have access to healthy meals at school so they are ready to learn. In this program, schools agree to offer breakfast and lunch for free to all students, and cover any costs that exceed the reimbursements from USDA. Designed to ease the burden of administering a high volume of applications for free and reduced price meals, CEP is a powerful tool to both increase child nutrition and reduce paperwork at the district, school, and household levels, which saves staff time and resources for cash-strapped school districts. Read more »
Next week, I, along with dozens of staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will have the pleasure of joining thousands of school nutrition professionals, members of the public health community, and food industry representatives in Boston at the 68th Annual National Conference of the School Nutrition Association (SNA). This annual event provides an opportunity for stakeholders in the school nutrition community to network, gain ideas, and learn from one another.
As a past president of SNA myself, I look forward to this meeting each year. Being surrounded by dedicated nutrition professionals who all want to make sure we are providing the best possible support to our nation’s children, and hearing about all the creative approaches schools are using to successfully serve healthy school meals is quite a treat. I am excited to be able to meet with members of the community one-on-one, and hear firsthand about their successes, as well as their challenges. I also look forward to speaking to the larger audience during the second general session on Tuesday. My USDA colleagues will be on-hand throughout the conference to gather more feedback and provide additional information, technical assistance and other support to school nutrition professionals. Read more »
This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.
In the battle for our children’s future, one of the most powerful things we can do to protect them is to ensure they get the nutrition they need to learn and grow.
Nationwide, 16 million children live in households that have trouble putting food on the table at least a portion of the year. During the school year, USDA’s school nutrition programs help make sure millions of American children get a healthy breakfast and lunch at school.
When school lets out, USDA’s summer meals help make sure that those kids get the nutrition they need, even when school is not in session. Last year, USDA and its partners served a record 168 million summer meals to kids across the country. Read more »
Cross-posted from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network blog:
When you think about organizations engaged in the War on Cancer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) may not be the first that comes to mind. Yet, we are on the front lines of the battle to reduce obesity, a known risk factor for many types of cancer, each and every day.
The impact of obesity on future health outlooks is shocking. The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates that one in three cancer deaths in 2012 were related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity. In the next ten years, obesity is predicted to overtake tobacco as the number one preventable cause of cancer. That estimate is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s prediction that by 2030, we could see an additional 400,000 cases of cancer in the United States as a result of continuing obesity trends. Read more »
Today’s guest post comes from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that aptly describes itself as “a catalyst for children’s health.” While the Alliance has been active in many settings, we at USDA particularly appreciate the dedication they have shown to improving school nutrition. In this post, Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO, describes some of the successes that his team has witnessed in school cafeterias.
Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Our nation’s students, some of whom consume up to half of their daily calories at school [see also this publication from the US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health], want and deserve healthy choices throughout the school building—in the cafeteria line, vending machines, and school stores.
Just ask eight-year-old Farrah from the William J. Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama: “It’s important to have healthy foods as part of school lunch so that kids can have the opportunity to try many fruits and vegetables and see that these foods are delicious,” she told the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “At the same time we can learn that these foods are good for you…Eating healthy can be fun.” Read more »
Rowe with kids and the Power Panther at the PowerHouse Ministries site in Marshall, MO.
This spring I had the opportunity to visit several summer feeding sites to witness the efforts of local organizations and states agencies so instrumental in the success of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. I had the chance to join our essential partners during summer meals kick-off events throughout the state of Missouri. It was especially gratifying to meet so many members of highly-engaged communities and the children and teens that benefit from their support.
During my May visit, I was honored to participate in a roundtable discussion at the St. Louis Area Food Bank while a new partnership was being forged. The lively conversation about successes and challenges of feeding kids nutritious summer meals included representatives from local, state and federal organizations. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and some of his staff attended to voice the city’s support of the summer feeding programs and offer ideas for feeding site activities, including creating butterfly gardens. Read more »