Across the nation there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. Photo: Auburn University College of Agriculture.
Thanks to a recent grant from USDA, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is now in better position to help get locally grown potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, and cheese onto school lunch plates. In Wisconsin, and across the nation, there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. USDA is helping create economic opportunities for producers by supporting projects that increase access to fresh, healthy food for students and consumers, and connect rural and urban communities.
Today Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $35 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies around the country. These grant programs play an important role in American agriculture and in communities by supporting local and regional food systems and giving farmers and ranchers the chance to explore new market opportunities. Read more »
CEP reduces school districts’ paperwork and administrative burden, giving schools more time and resources to improve their meal service.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last several years about the nutrition of school meals – where the ingredients come from, how they’re prepared, what the food tastes like, and how the meal is presented. These are all important conversations for elevating the quality of school food service and improving the health and wellbeing of children nationwide. But it’s also important to remember one of the most vital purposes of offering school meals: fighting hunger so kids can focus on learning.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a tool high-poverty schools can use to fight childhood hunger. It allows schools in low-income areas to serve meals to all students at no cost, eliminating individual household applications for free and reduced-price meals and increasing access to nutritious food. Read more »
The Economic Research Service has released Household Food Security in the United States in 2014. ERS has also conducted recent research on the impact of economic conditions and policies on the incidence of food insecurity. (Click to enlarge)
USDA’s recently released annual report on the incidence and severity of food insecurity in American households marks 20 years of Federal statistics measuring U.S. food insecurity. This year’s report, presenting 2014 data, shows that 86.0 percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year, meaning that all household members had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 2014, 14.0 percent of U.S. households (17.4 million households) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members because of a lack of financial or other resources. Food insecurity, essentially unchanged from 2013, is down from a high of 14.9 percent measured in 2011.
Looking back over the last several years, the food insecurity rate, as expected, rose in 2008 with the recession. But the food insecurity rate has not returned to pre-recession levels. Research shows that while modest improvements in food security have accompanied declining unemployment, other changes in the economy, including higher food prices, appear to offset the effect of unemployment declines. These higher food prices, along with an increase in overall inflation, are key factors preventing food insecurity rates from any substantial decline. Another Economic Research Service (ERS) study found that, particularly for households receiving benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), higher local food prices were related to higher food insecurity. Read more »
Many schools in high-poverty areas find that participating in CEP is cost-effective.
When the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), schools in high-poverty areas gained another important tool to fight childhood hunger. By the end of school year 2014-15, the first year CEP was available nationwide, more than half of all eligible schools had already jumped on board.
Low-income schools of all kinds – rural, urban, elementary and secondary – recognized the potential impact they could have on their communities by offering meals at no cost to all students. Yet, some schools encountered more bumps on the road to implementation than others. Read more »
Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch.
Every day, millions of students across the U.S. walk into school with stomachs growling because they haven’t had enough to eat either that morning or the night before and eagerly anticipate getting a school breakfast. Hours later, when the lunch bell rings, the same students jet to the front of the line to make sure they get enough food to tide them over until their next meal. For many students, school meals are not a luxury or a backup in case they forget to pack a meal; they are a lifeline.
At a time when 8.6 million U.S. children lack consistent access to food at home, the availability of nutritious meals at school is more important than ever. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools to not only feed more kids, but can help with the bottom line. Read more »
Jerry Lami (second from right), Executive Director of West Coast Farmers Market Association in California, at a Farmers Market/SNAP sign-up event in May 2015. Also pictured (left to right) are Brenda Mutuma, Andy Riesenberg, and Karone Jackson, all from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Farmers markets create the ultimate win-win-win scenario. They provide consumers access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, and other foods, while also giving farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers. Just ask executive director Jerry Lami who manages the West Coast Farmers Market Association.
Mr. Lami knows firsthand the positive developments that farmers markets can spark. “They create a fantastic relationship between communities and farmers,” he shares. “Neighbors meet neighbors. It’s a social gathering and an opportunity for customers to meet growers; then new relationships begins.” The end result, he adds, is that the farmer becomes a trusted food provider. Read more »