USDA programs like CACFP help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.
During National Nutrition Month, we’re excited to highlight the many ways federal nutrition assistance programs benefit vulnerable Americans.
At USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, we often get the chance to discuss how WIC and our school lunch and breakfast programs boost the nutritional lives of millions. But did you know that each day our Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides over 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults nutritious meals and snacks that contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development? Read more »
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 »
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:
Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country. It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room. It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.
Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success. Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in. And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. Read more »
On Friday, President Obama recognized October 12-18 as National School Lunch Week with an official proclamation. The message thanks hardworking school food service professionals, the tireless staff who demonstrate a daily commitment to providing schoolchildren with proper nutrition to enrich their lives in the classroom and beyond.
Since President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946, schools have served more than 220 billion lunches! Meals that have enabled scores of American children the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive. And with more than 30 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, balanced meals at school play a key role in fostering a healthier next generation. Read more »
Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry
Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California. Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with school gardening, and how gardening helps to transform the food culture among students who were previously unaware of the origins of food. His district is making great strides in improving the school nutrition environment, thanks in part to support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By: Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District
The majority of the more than 1,000 students that attend Durfee School—part of El Monte School District, east of Los Angeles, California—have lived their entire lives in urban neighborhoods without access to farms or fields. It’s ironic that our school is named after James R. Durfee, a rancher and farmer who grew vegetables, grain, walnuts, and fruit. But until several years ago, Durfee students didn’t know where food came from, aside from the supermarket or the corner store.
When we joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and decided to improve the healthfulness of the food we serve to our students, we started by getting our hands dirty. As the director of nutrition services for El Monte School District I knew that kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process and learn why it is important. I invited local farmers to school to plant seedlings with the students. Once kids saw how broccoli or red cabbage grows, you can bet they wanted to taste them both in the garden and in the cafeteria. Read more »