Today’s guest post comes from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that aptly describes itself as “a catalyst for children’s health.” While the Alliance has been active in many settings, we at USDA particularly appreciate the dedication they have shown to improving school nutrition. In this post, Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO, describes some of the successes that his team has witnessed in school cafeterias.
Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Our nation’s students, some of whom consume up to half of their daily calories at school [see also this publication from the US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health], want and deserve healthy choices throughout the school building—in the cafeteria line, vending machines, and school stores.
Just ask eight-year-old Farrah from the William J. Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama: “It’s important to have healthy foods as part of school lunch so that kids can have the opportunity to try many fruits and vegetables and see that these foods are delicious,” she told the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “At the same time we can learn that these foods are good for you…Eating healthy can be fun.” Read more »
As schools across the country were winding down for the summer, the conversation around school meals standards was heating up. School districts, parents, community members and Congressional representatives have engaged in an important discussion about the role of the new standards in our nation’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. Created to boost the health of our next generation, the standards encourage schools to get more creative and health-conscious about the food they serve to their students. Last month, USDA joined the National Hispanic Medical Association to reinforce this critical message.
During a Congressional briefing held by the National Hispanic Medical Association, dozens convened to learn how the Latino community was leveraging the new standards to support healthier lifestyles for their children. While the association focused on educational and healthcare institutions heightening awareness around nutrition programs, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Administrator, Jesus Mendoza, underscored the importance of healthy eating, emphasizing his experiences with the new standards in his region. “Since the passing of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act,” Mendoza explained, “kids are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, 90 percent of schools report that they are able to abide by the standards, more water is being offered to our children in cafeterias, and we’re exposing kids to foods they’ve never seen or heard of before.” Read more »
The National Education Association believes that every student deserves a great public school. A high-quality school nutrition program is not an add-on or ancillary service, but is an integral part of that great school.
The USDA school meals programs serve well over 30 million students per day, nationwide. We rely on our partners in the education realm to help us ensure that these programs—not only programs of great magnitude, but also of great public health importance—are implemented appropriately so that children are healthy and ready to learn. This week’s guest blog from the National Education Association is a testament to their members’ commitment to student health, and the important role that school nutrition plays.
By Roxanne Dove, Director, National Education Association, Education Support Professionals Quality
The nearly half-million Education Support Professionals (ESPs) who are members of the National Education Association play vital roles in helping to create great public schools for our students. ESPs work as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, food service staff, and in many other jobs as part of a unified education workforce that helps ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished, and well-educated.
As readers of this blog may know, our country’s youth are facing twin crises of obesity and food insecurity — limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese (White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity: Report to the President, 2010) while 16 million face food insecurity (USDA Economic Research Service, 2013). In a sad irony, food insecurity leads to both hunger and obesity. Because they lack access to or can’t afford healthier food, food insecure families may be forced to choose inexpensive, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Read more »
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, students across America are being served meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Parents can send their kids to school knowing that the healthy habits they teach at home are being reinforced at school, with breakfast and lunch menus that provide more of the foods we should eat, and less of the foods that we should avoid.
Parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, communities, and policy makers are working hard to make sure that school environments support a healthier next generation. Read more »
Cross-posted from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog:
With summer’s arrival, officials at the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are preparing for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Our offices recently hosted a nationwide conference call to thank faith and community leaders for their work in this area and to inform them about efforts surrounding the SFSP this summer. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the call, challenging community leaders to strive for an aggressive, but attainable goal: serving an additional 10 million meals over the course of the summer to better reach our children in need. Secretary Vilsack discussed the need for children to be well-nourished, an essential part of our commitment to helping children learn and thrive. Read more »
A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!
This week is National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week, an important time to emphasize USDA’s commitment to ensure children and teens have access to safe, nutritious meals when school lets out. Through the Summer Food Service Program, federal assistance is provided for state agencies and non-profit sponsors to help children in eligible high-need areas get the proper nutrition they need during the summer when schools are not in session.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students across the country are getting healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium. With more than 90 percent of schools meeting the healthy meal standards, children are getting the nutrition needed to reach their full potential. But poor nutrition during the summer months can also affect children’s academic performance during the school year. USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. Read more »