Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Posts tagged: school meals

Summer Meal Programs Offer Nutrition, Combat Hunger for America’s Children and Teens

Cross-posted from the National Dairy Council blog:

Summer vacation is something all kids look forward to, but unfortunately hunger doesn’t take a vacation. More than 21 million American children and teens depend on free or reduced-price school meals during the school year, and when school cafeterias close, many of them lose their most important source of balanced nutrition and are at risk of going hungry.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and dedicated partners like National Dairy Council are working to provide nutritious meals to hungry kids throughout the summer. We know that children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition during this time. And our summer meals programs are well-poised to help fill this gap, serving as an important source of nutritious food for children and youth during the long summer break. Read more »

New Training Tracker Tool Now Available to School Nutrition Professionals

Professional Standards Tracking Tool screenshot

The ‘Enter Training Information’ page of the Professional Standards Tracking Tool provides training information for a school or school district’s employees. (Click to enlarge)

As a former school nutrition director, I can tell you that school nutrition professionals are dedicated to serving nutritious meals to their students and committed to making the new meal patterns work.  Established by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the new standards require schools to prepare healthier meals for the nearly 31 million children who rely on them each and every school day. At USDA, we understand school nutrition professionals are on the front lines every day as we all work together to improve nutrition and reduce obesity in our nation’s children….and we’re glad we have them in our corner!

In March, USDA announced the final rule to establish national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition personnel who manage and operate our meal programs. The rule establishes education and training standards to ensure personnel have the training and tools to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy foods.  These strategies will support our hardworking school nutrition professionals as they create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals for our kids. Read more »

Photo-Worthy Meals

Girl with a plate of food

Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”

No, it’s really not. Read more »

Lessons Learned from a Food Service Director: Kids Like Healthy Foods

Fruits in plastic trays

In Kentucky, the Whitley County School District customizes the fruit and vegetable options served in each school, based on the preferences of those particular students.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Sharon Foley, Food Service Director, Whitley County School District, Kentucky

During the more than two decades I’ve worked in schools, I’ve witnessed what we now know to be true: healthy kids learn better. But I’ll also let you in on a secret: Not only are healthy foods better for our children’s long-term outcomes, kids like healthy foods! Read more »

Direct Certification Improves Low-Income Children’s Access to Healthy School Meals, Boosts Program Efficiency

Students at the Wolcott Elementary School in West Hartford, Connecticut enjoying lunchtime

Direct certification can increase access to free school meals for eligible students.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to helping America’s children get the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.  Direct certification for school meals is one important strategy to make that possible for the low-income children.  This process links student enrollment records to states’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program data, so children receiving SNAP or TANF can be directly certified for free school meals without having to submit additional paperwork through applications. 

By using data already verified through SNAP and TANF, direct certification improves efficiency and accuracy for schools.  Just as importantly, families are spared the burden of a separate meals application.  Congress made direct certification a requirement for all schools through the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act. Read more »

Keep School Lunches Healthy

Every parent has dreams for their child. We want them to grow up strong and healthy. We tell them to dream big and work hard so that they can be anything they want to be. We want them to take the world by storm.

As parents, we lay the foundation for our children’s future success, but we know that we can’t do it alone. We rely on people like pediatricians, other health care providers, teachers and other school professionals to act as our proxies. We entrust them with the task of helping our kids grow up smart, strong and healthy because, as parents, we believe that they will make decisions in our children’s best interests. And that applies to what our children eat when they are away from home, especially at school. Read more »