A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) infographic highlighting food purchases and programs that help feed those in need. Click to view a larger version.
USDA has programs and services that bring the bounty of American agriculture to people and communities across the country. One of the most impactful ways my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), fulfills its mission is through our USDA Foods purchase programs. Our food purchases begin with American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, and end their journey on the tables of our nation’s schools, food banks, and communities.
AMS plays a central role in this supply chain that delivers about 2 billion pounds of domestically-grown and -processed food each year. That equates to about 52,000 semi-trucks full of food every year—enough trucks to stretch the length of Florida tip to tip! Read more »
Fresh fruits and vegetables in a high school cafeteria.
The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. And this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Team Nutrition initiative. Wisconsin Team Nutrition has used the funding to build out their healthy cooking contest for the states’ middle and high school students.
By Kelly Williams, RDN, CD, and Alicia Dill, RDN, CD, CDE; Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, School Nutrition Team
Thanks to funding from a USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant, Wisconsin Team Nutrition has been able to expand its interactive cooking contest, Whipping Up Wellness, Wisconsin Student Chef Competition. Now in its third year, this popular contest combines the excitement of competition with the principles of healthy eating, while creating an engaging opportunity for nutrition education. Read more »
“We create opportunities for American ag businesses,” said Casey Wong-Buehler, AMS Commodity Procurement Program Specialist. “Trips like this help us ensure that our procurement requirements provide a realistic framework for our vendors to successfully supply quality food.”
Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.
A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers. Read more »
USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »
USDA’s What’s Shaking? resources offer creative ways to boost flavor with less sodium. (Click to enlarge)
What’s shaking in USDA’s school meals programs? Delicious and nutritious food, that’s what! Healthy food does not have to be bland or boring. There’s more to creating a tasty meal than just dousing food in dressing or layering on salty sauces. It’s easy to make your dish pop without adding excess sodium. Many schools around the country have figured out creative ways to serve low-sodium meals that maximize taste. So what can you do this school year to “spice” things up and take school meals to the next level? Read more »
A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.
The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »