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Posts tagged: school meals

USDA Relies on Feedback to Help Schools, Children Adapt to New Meal Standards

Hummus and Pita Bread, Sunflower butter string cheese and fruit, Turkey and cheese sandwiches prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Hummus and Pita Bread, Sunflower butter string cheese and fruit, Turkey and cheese sandwiches prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

As many schools wind down for the year, USDA is gearing up for exciting new improvements designed to make the 2014-2015 school year even healthier for our nation’s future leaders.  It’s a commitment rooted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  In that legislation, USDA is directed to update the school meals to reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The new school meal requirements are intended to ensure children get the nutrition they need for academic performance and overall health.  That’s a mission USDA takes seriously. Feeding kids, and feeding them well, can be a challenge.  I understand that as a former school nutrition director, mother, and now grandmother.   Plus, we know that change, in general, can be difficult. That is why we are working closely with schools to make sure the transition to the updated standards runs as smoothly as possible.  We are listening to what school nutritional professionals, teachers, parents and students are telling us.  These partners are the heart and soul of the school community and we have provided flexibilities based on their important feedback. Read more »

Innovative Approach to Feeding At-Risk Children during Summer Shines in Florida

Mobile unit programs in Florida feed thousands of summer meals to children in need.

Mobile unit programs in Florida feed thousands of summer meals to children in need.

With summer approaching, many of our nation’s students will soon be out of school enjoying their break.  However, too many of these children may miss out on a meal they normally would receive through USDA’s school meals programs.  Thanks to an innovative approach, Florida’s at-risk children can now have meals brought to them through the Summer Food Service Program, by way of a very creative partnership.

Florida’s Mobile Summer BreakSpot Program (a collaboration of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the childhood hunger group Florida Impact) has developed a way to renovate school buses to transport summer meals to neighborhood children in need. Read more »

California Food for California Kids, Especially on Thursdays

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

I collect aprons like other people collect coins. There are dozens hanging in my kitchen, so many I suspect several have never actually been used. So it was with some self-consciousness that I accepted yet another apron last fall from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The Center was handing out hundreds of aprons to California school food service directors along with recipes for healthy school meals. At the Palm Springs Convention Center, tables were lined with ingredients, tools of the trade such as mixing bowls and measuring cups, and two burner stoves. Our task was to locate our group and get cooking; we’d be making lunch not for hungry children but for hungry conference attendees at the California Food for California Kids conference. Read more »

FNS Uses Research to Protect Taxpayer Dollars

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, while ensuring that our program are effective and well managed.

For Federal nutrition assistance programs to succeed over the long term, they must operate with a high degree of integrity.  The American people expect and deserve nothing less.  At FNS, we use research and analysis to take a hard look at integrity in these programs, determine strengths and challenges, and shape innovations to continuously improve.

While fraud and errors are low in FNS programs, we assert that any level of either is unacceptable.  High-quality research is an integral component in our integrity efforts because it enables us to see where fraud and errors occur and identify ways to strengthen the programs against those challenges and track progress over time: Read more »

Local Combines with American Grown

Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.

But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »

USDA Foods Get Even Greener

Lunch directors and school kids are giving USDA’s frozen broccoli the thumbs up, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Kathy Russell, School Food Service Director with Santa Gertrudis Independent School District located in Kingsville, Texas, praised the recent improvements in the USDA Foods.

Lunch directors and school kids are giving USDA’s frozen broccoli the thumbs up, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Kathy Russell, School Food Service Director with Santa Gertrudis Independent School District located in Kingsville, Texas, praised the recent improvements in the USDA Foods.

St. Patrick’s Day might be over, but at USDA we’re still sporting our green.  That’s because of the success of one food in particular—a vegetable underdog: broccoli!  As one of the newest additions to the USDA Foods lineup, AMS purchased 6.87 million pounds (nearly $7.6 million) of broccoli during FY 2013, and FY 2014 purchasing has been even more robust.

Each year, the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff (AMS-CP) spends nearly $2 billion on 2 billion pounds of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs, otherwise known as USDA Foods.  The AMS-CP mission is to support American agriculture and promote domestic production by purchasing commodities, while meeting the needs of federal food assistance programs across the country. Read more »