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:
MyPlate offers easy ideas for making healthy foods festive and fun.
Who doesn’t want to have a little fun with their food? Especially if you have a picky eater at home, try adding a creative flair to the plate to boost a healthy meal’s fun factor. Our team of nutritionists has been having fun using cookie cutters to come up with creative, healthy ideas, but there are lots of easy ways to make healthy choices more appealing.
You’re never too old to play with your food! This winter, while the kids are home from school and family and friends gather together, you can experiment with ways to make healthy foods festive and fun. This blog shows how we created a snowy scene using foods from all five of the MyPlate food groups.
Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices. A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation. The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »
Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.
It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.
For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources. Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably. State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent.Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »
This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »