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Posts tagged: School Lunch Program

Taking the Summer On: AMS Interns Gain Valuable Experience

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

Without farmers and the agricultural businesses that support them, no one can eat. This is a simple concept, but it implies that people will continue to choose careers in agriculture. Here at USDA, one of the ways that we encourage younger generations to choose these careers is offering grants to institutions that offer agricultural curriculums. 

Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA enables students to expand their knowledge of the agricultural industry. NIFA provides grants to schools such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. This allows these institutions to offer top-notch agricultural curriculums. Read more »

Household Food Security Report: Call for Action

Today, USDA’s Economic Research Service released the report “Household Food Security in the United States 2009,” and reported that 17.4 million households had difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of resources, about the same as in 2008. In more than a third of those households, at least one member did not get enough to eat at some time during the year and normal eating patterns were disrupted due to limited resources. Read more »

Student Reporter Asks Tough Questions About Improving School Meals

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move blog

By Sammi Citron, USDA Intern

Reading a Scholastic book, or attending a Scholastic book fair are both rites of passage equal in importance to the first day you walked to school by yourself, or the first time dividing fractions finally made sense. A long-standing tradition within the book-savvy crowd is the Scholastic Kid Press Corps, a group of adolescents eager to be on the front lines of reporting well before they hit their teen years. One of these kids is Jonas Hosmer.

Many twelve-year-olds might be nervous to conduct an interview with someone like Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, but not Jonas Hosmer – a preteen who declares a trip to the hobby store as the ultimate field trip and who dabbles in creating and editing videos in his very own production company – co-owned with his sister and friend – Apple Productions.

“I’m very curious, and I have an open mind to what’s going on around me,” boasts Jonas. “I enjoy interviewing people and learning more about them. Unlike some kids, I’m very comfortable talking with adults and kids, no matter who they are.”

With Jonas’s knack for interviewing, he’s a perfect fit as a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps., one of fifty-four student reporters located around the nation writing for Scholastic News and Junior Scholastic magazines. These magazines are featuring stories written by Hosmer and other reporters; the magazines are distributed in U.S. classrooms grades one through twelve with a combined circulation of 8 million and a reach of 25 million students, parents and teachers.

Since childhood obesity is fast becoming one of the most pressing concerns facing kids across the country, Jonas lined up questions for Secretary Vilsack that were aimed to uncover the issues related to school nutrition and ways the Obama administration is working to remedy the problem.

Like any good reporter, Jonas came prepared with a voice recorder and set to work. Seated in Secretary Vilsack’s office, the two chatted and Jonas asked questions like “why is it important for kids to have healthier lunch choices at school?,” and “how is the Let’s Move! campaign working to improve the nutrition and quality of school lunches?”

Outlining the Obama administration’s objectives, Secretary Vilsack helped Jonas to understand not only what kinds of changes kids will see in their school cafeterias when classes resume next fall, but also what steps will be taken to ensure a healthier school environment for the coming generations.

Secretary Vilsack pointed out that while improved school meals are critical to the nutrition and obesity prevention programs, another challenge lies in helping kids stay active and healthy outside of school.

When President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act into effect 64 years ago, he said, “In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children,” and today, the Obama administration agrees. With the help of parents, teachers and administrators in schools throughout the country and students like Jonas, a new generation of leaders is picking up on the decades-old promise.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left) granted Jonas Hosmer (right) a reporter with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps an interview on Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (left) granted Jonas Hosmer (right) a reporter with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps an interview on Wednesday, May 19, 2010

USDA Report Monitors Food Security Among U.S. Households

For some Americans, making ends meet is a struggle even in a strong economy. These households at times have difficulty meeting their food needs and can’t always afford enough food to get them through the month, or the week. During economic downturns, these situations become more common and more serious.

Each year since 1995, USDA has monitored the level of food security — consistent access to adequate food for an active, healthy life. Since 2000, we’ve been authors of the annual report on food security published by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) with the collaboration of the Food and Nutrition Service. Today we released our report covering 2008. It was a year of economic downturn, and we saw the number of U.S. households classified as food insecure reach the highest level recorded since 1995.

In 2008 the number of food-insecure households grew to 17.1 million, or 14.6 percent of all households, up from 11.1 percent the previous year. Among households with children, the percentage increase was larger – from 15.8 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2008.

Our numbers include a subset of households that experienced more frequent and severe food insecurity, which we call very low food security. In these households, the food intake of some household members was actually reduced, and normal eating patterns are disrupted. In 2008, these households amounted to 5.7 percent of U.S. households, up from 4.1 percent in 2007.

We’re also seeing the recession reflected in the 2008 expenditures on USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program); at $37.7 billion, expenditures were up 13 percent from the previous year. And we’ve found that for SNAP participants, the prevalence of very low food security rose less in 2008 than among non-participants – suggesting that the food assistance programs provide a buffer against the more severe instances of food insecurity, although they can’t entirely prevent these conditions.

We view the information in the food security report as part of an overall effort to provide access to adequate, healthful food for those who need it. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs – programs like SNAP, and the National School Lunch Program – provide the core of the Nation’s nutritional safety net. It’s important for the people who operate these programs – and for our representatives in Congress – to have reliable data on the level of food security and the use of food and nutrition assistance programs both public and private. The information in the yearly food security reports is also used by community food providers and by private organizations that are working to alleviate food insecurity.

The ERS website contains the latest food security report, including a summary. And the December issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine contains an article on food security in recessionary times.

Margaret Andrews, Economist, and Mark Nord, Sociologist, USDA Economic Research Service