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Posts tagged: Summer Meals

Summer Meals: Fueling Children and Teens to Reach Their Highest Potential

Under Secretary Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon with children

For more than 40 years, USDA has been committed to closing the food security gap that occurs in the summer months when children no longer have access to the nutritious meals they’re offered in school.

As I travel across the country visiting our nation’s summer meals sites, I am proud of the commitment we’ve collectively made to nourish both the bodies and minds of our country’s children and teens. Schools, recreation centers, places of worship, libraries and other community sites have generously opened their doors to ensure kids receive healthy, balanced meals during the summer months – a time when many low-income families struggle to provide their children nutritious meals and snacks each and every day.

At USDA we’ve long recognized summer as a vulnerable time for kids and have been focused on closing the food security gap that occurs during the months when school is out of session.  Since 2009, more than 1.2 billion meals have been served through the Summer Meal Programs, fueling kids and teens throughout the summer and helping to ensure they are healthy and ready to learn when the school year begins. Read more »

Strawberries, Blueberries, Corncobs, Oh My! – Bringing the Farm to Summer

A person picking out produce

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 »

Summer Meal Programs Fight Hunger with Nutritious Food and Innovation

Smiling group of diverse children

Summer meals help close the nutrition gap children face when schools let out for summer — when children no longer receive school meals they relied on throughout the school year.

The following guest blog discusses the importance of USDA Summer Meals Programs, which provide children with healthy food during the summer, when the school meals they depend on disappear.  Childhood memories shared by the writer demonstrate how critical healthy meals are to the growth and development of children.  USDA’s approaches to making summer meals accessible are also highlighted.

By Jesus Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Communications, Administration for Children and Families (HHS)

When I was young, summers seemed to last forever. Days were long and hot in rural South Texas.

One thing I looked forward to after riding my bicycle all over the neighborhood was a nice lunch prepared by my grandmother Angelita. Meals like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) or carne guisada (stewed meat) with a side of beans provided the energy I needed to keep up with an adventurous summer.

Good food not only helps your body climb hills when you’re a kid, but it helps your brain develop in order to learn new stuff.  For some children in our communities, though, not enough healthy food is available for them to enjoy and help them grow. Luckily, a very helpful program exists that communities can use to tackle this problem: USDA’s Summer Meal Programs. Read more »

Our Students Have a Voice in School Meals

4-H Delegates learning about Team Nutrition resources

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 »

Helping Kids Stay Active and Healthy This Summer

Kids and a man drawing on the Eat Your Colors theme

Creative themes and fun games help summer meal sites offer nutrition education and active games.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for communities and parents to start thinking about activities for kids when school is out.  With deliciously juicy local fruits and veggies coming into season and, in many areas, warmer weather that invites summer play, it may seem logical that keeping kids healthy would be easier during summer months. However, without the structure of school and afterschool sports, those lazy summer days can sometimes lead to constant snacking and endless hours playing video games and watching TV.

For some children, the summer months can mean food insecurity because they no longer have access to regular school meals. That’s where summer meal programs can help, not only by offering free healthy meals, but also by providing opportunities for nutrition education and physical activity. Read more »

Outstanding Summer Sites Offer Tips for Improving Summer Meal Programs

Arizona Cardinals football player Drew Butler making pizza with kids at the Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy of the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona

Arizona Cardinals football player Drew Butler makes pizza with kids at the Ken "Chief" Hill Learning Academy of the Chandler Unified School District in Arizona during Pizza Camp, funded by the Dairy Council of Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Dairy Council of Arizona)

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, we have seen some extraordinary summer meal programs sponsors and partners. Here are three key tips we learned from some stellar partners in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region that other programs can follow to ensure successful summer programs next year! Read more »