When school is out during the summer months and children are no longer receiving breakfast and lunch at school, many families struggle to feed their children nutritious meals each and every day.
As a mother and grandmother, I understand the importance of ensuring that America’s children are provided with nutritious meals every day. My grandchildren, who are 5 and 8, are just like all children – infinitely curious and filled with energy, love, and joy. Young children should be playing and learning — not worried about where their next meal will come from. But for many children, school meals are their only source of nutrition, which is why USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are so important.
Summer Meals provide kids with the nutrition they need when school is out, and a safe haven where they can play and learn to keep their minds and bodies active during the summer months. The availability of these meals, which are served at no cost to children 18 and under, also reduces the financial burden on caretakers when school is out of session. Read more »
Promoting Healthy Choices Throughout the School Day
Schools across the country are working hard to ensure students experience a healthy school environment from the moment they walk in the door until the final bell rings. Imagine for a second that you are back in sixth grade. In health class, you’re learning about the food groups and how to eat a balanced diet. During P.E. class, your teacher stresses the importance of exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle. School breakfast and lunch included colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. In between periods you are hungry for an afternoon snack from the school’s vending machine. Your eye catches a glimpse of a flashy picture of a bottle of water with a logo down the side of the vending machine, and you think to yourself that water would be a great thirst quencher. Still, you scan the vending machine and see that your options are bottles of water, 100 percent juices, and unsweetened tea—all healthy options! You are thrilled that the school is supporting your resolve to maintain a healthy lifestyle by making healthy choices so readily available. Feeling good about the choices you’ve made so far that day, you are able to choose a healthy snack to compliment the healthy meals you have eaten throughout the day. Read more »
Incorporating local produce into summer meals programs benefits the entire community.
Fields of asparagus and peas are in full bounty, soon to make way for sweet, juicy strawberries; towering stalks of corn; and more tomatoes than you’d ever know what to do with! In many parts of the country, as we approach summer, the warm weather means that local harvests are at their peak, and fresh fruits and vegetables abound. That’s what makes summer the perfect time of year for incorporating local foods into your meals. And according to the most recently released data from the Farm to School Census 2015, more than 1,000 school districts nationwide are doing just that: They’re bringing the farm to summer!
When school lets out for summer, there’s still a need to ensure the millions of children who receive free and reduced-price school meals during the school year have consistent access to healthy meals. USDA’s summer meals programs help fill that gap, serving over 191 million meals to children last summer alone! Community centers, libraries, day camps, churches, and more can all sign up to host a summer meals site through the summer meals programs, but schools make for a particularly good site since they already have food production facilities in place for serving meals throughout the school year. The Farm to School Census 2015 found that more than one in five school districts that participate in farm to school programs report including local foods in meals served through their summer meals programs. Read more »
Map of the dollar value of USDA Foods purchased in FY 2014; icons represent the states that are the largest sources of a particular type of USDA Foods. (Click to view a larger version)
Do you know where your food comes from? If you can pinpoint where your food was grown and produced, you can make more informed decisions to maximize quality, freshness, and nutritional value. You can also help support local economies through your purchases. The USDA Foods program takes this mantra to heart and publishes state of origin reports with procurement information on all USDA Foods every year. As we like to say at FNS, “All USDA Foods are local to someone.”
USDA Foods are 100 percent American grown and produced. Each year, USDA procures more than 200 types of food, including meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, flour, cereals, and dairy products, totaling approximately $2 billion. Organizations such as food banks, disaster and emergency feeding organizations, Indian Tribal Organizations, schools, and other feeding groups receive these USDA Foods for use in meal service or distribution to households through programs like the National School Lunch Program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Read more »
School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA.
It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.
Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards. Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children. Read more »
4-H Delegates learn about Team Nutrition resources as nutrition education tools to take back to their schools and communities.
One key strategy in helping schools serve nutritious and appealing meals that students will eat is to simply ask, “What do you need?”
On April 9, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked this simple yet compelling question to nearly 40 4-H delegates at the 2016 National 4-H Conference in Chevy Chase, Md. USDA FNS hosted the roundtable session, “Healthy Eating in Schools: A Dialogue with USDA Food & Nutrition Service,” in an effort to give eager student leaders a chance to share their views on school meals and healthy eating. Participants came from all across the U.S. states and territories, from Nebraska to North Carolina, and as far away as Puerto Rico and a U.S. Air Force base in Japan. Read more »