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Posts tagged: school meals

Reducing Sodium, Boosting Health for our Nation’s Schoolchildren

What's Shaking infographic

USDA’s new infographic depicts the public health importance of sodium reduction, and provides tips for school nutrition professionals on reducing the sodium content of school meals. (Click to enlarge)

Reducing sodium in school meals is an important part of a broader effort to scale back sodium intake for all Americans.  To that end, our nation’s school nutrition professionals are actively working to lower the sodium content in our children’s meals during the school day.  Many schools have already achieved USDA’s sodium targets, thanks to student feedback on menu planning, changes in recipes and products, and sharing best practices with their colleagues.

The benefits of reducing sodium are significant and supported by science, which indicates overconsumption can lead to heart disease and other chronic conditions.  Through the What’s Shaking? sodium reduction initiative, USDA has teamed with our partners across the country to make a healthful difference for our nation’s children and for their futures. Read more »

A Case Study in Wellness at PS 145 – Supporting Schools and Supporting Nutrition Standards

WITS Chef Katie Cook and Chef Partner Henry Rinehart celebrating a WITS Cafe Day (special culinary demo and tasting days) with their students at PS145/West Prep Academy

WITS Chef Katie Cook and Chef Partner Henry Rinehart celebrate a WITS Cafe Day (special culinary demo and tasting days) with their students at PS145/West Prep Academy.

The following guest blog, part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlights the work of Wellness in the Schools, a non-profit organization working on school nutrition in New York City.  Organizations such as this can be a great resource for teachers and students in creating healthier school environments.

By Chef Greg Silverman, Managing Director, Wellness in the Schools

This year, as school came to a close, the kids at PS145/West Prep Academy in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood were feeling healthier, more fit, and more focused, thanks to two programs offered through Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a non-profit organization dedicated to making public schools healthier places to learn and grow. The programs are through WITS Cook for Kids and Coach for Kids programs, chefs and coaches support school wellness by providing staff training in the cafeteria and recess yard, and helping schools to transition to healthier meals and more active play times. Read more »

Behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Matt Russell

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.

“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”

So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »

Lessons Learned from Farm to Summer Successes

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoying locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member

As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option.  Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.

With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »

Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »