Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.
Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.
A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »
AmeriCorps VISTA summer associate Michal Elias-Bachrach serves summer meals to children and teens through the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.
The following guest blog highlights the partnership between USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which leverages the service-oriented energy of AmeriCorps summer associates to expand and enhance USDA summer meal sites for children in low-income communities. USDA summer meals fill the hunger gap for the over 21-million children across the country who rely on school meals during the school year. This blog details the summer associates’ experiences, as narrated by an AmeriCorps VISTA program specialist who was integral to the partnership.
By Mark Wilson, Program Specialist, Corporation for National and Community Service
“Sports, games, nutrition, friends and fun!” is how Andrea Wilkinson described her summer service in Reno, Nev. From June to August, 579 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates like Andrea served in 42 states and the District of Columbia, making the summer meals program more fun and beneficial for families. Read more »
KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.
Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.
Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »
Putting hunger on vacation thanks to the new Summer Meals Site Finder tool.
USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded, state-administered program, last year served more than 187 million meals to children in low-income areas to ensure that they continued to receive proper nutrition throughout the summer when schools were closed. But that number represents just a small fraction of the children who are eligible to receive summer meals. Many families may not have taken advantage of the program because they didn’t know where meals were served near them.
That’s why this summer we here at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently launched the Summer Meal Site Finder, a new web and mobile tool that allows parents, teens and children in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to type in their address, city, state or zip code to get a list of the summer meal sites closest to them. The tool also provides information about each of the 45,000 sites already registered for this summer, including their operating hours, contact information, and directions to each site. Read more »
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 »
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 »