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Posts tagged: USDA Foods

USDA Foods Hatches New Chicken Product for Schools

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

School lunches have evolved since many of our childhood days to keep pace with new dietary guidelines and school meal patterns, but one food has been an enduring component: chicken.  The popular protein graces the center of the plate in a variety of forms and flavors, and the new USDA Foods unseasoned chicken strip provides school nutrition professionals with a versatile and healthy option to add to their recipes.  USDA develops new products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) based on feedback from states and school districts.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how chicken flies the coop from farms to a pilot program to cafeterias across the country.

Did you know that on any given day, USDA Foods comprise 15 to 20 percent of the value of food served on the lunch line, or that the School Year 2015 Foods Available List contains more than 200 options?  For more than 70 years, USDA has provided states with 100 percent American grown food for school lunches to support the dual mission of strengthening our nutrition safety net and supporting American agriculture.  The unseasoned, non-breaded chicken strip is just the latest contribution to a long history of providing nutritious foods for school meals. Read more »

Green Thumbs near Green Bay: Menominee Tribe Cultivates Nutrition Education

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets.  I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants.  Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.

Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices.  A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation.  The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »

Whitefish Public Schools Take Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in Stride

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

Whitefish Public Schools Food Service Director Jay Stagg started transitioning to more scratch cooking and using fewer processed foods when he was hired 5 years ago. So, when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) rules were implemented, it might have seemed as though they were just catching up with the improvements he had initiated.

“There weren’t too many changes needed from what I was already doing,” he said.

Before the final regulation’s effective date, Stagg had already changed over to whole-grain-rich products and reduced sodium levels. Read more »

Be Prepared! Do YOU Know USDA’s Role in Helping Families Following Disasters and Emergencies?

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

Ensuring our Nation’s children and families in need have access to healthy meals is a priority at USDA and that promise is of particular emphasis during times of disaster or emergency.  Throughout National Preparedness Month this September, USDA recognizes the importance of being ready and wants the public to know the resources available to them during a time of great need.

When disasters strike, it’s not only important for you and your family to be prepared, it’s also critical that your community be prepared.  USDA supports local communities by providing access to healthy meals in emergency situations.  Schools, emergency shelters, and summer sites that operate the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, or Summer Food Service programs may provide access to healthy meals for children in such events.  Child care institutions may also serve as emergency shelters in a disaster situation. Read more »

Did YOU Know that the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program Helps Families Affected by Disasters?

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

September is National Preparedness Month, a time to evaluate the many ways that we can prepare our families and communities before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. Whether they come in the form of a hurricane, earthquake or drought, being prepared is the best defense against long-term, negative impacts. One of the ways USDA supports disaster victims is by supplying food for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These purchases not only help those unfortunate enough to be affected by the disaster, they also put to use the abundance of foods produced by American farmers and processors.

Through our Commodity Procurement Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes purchases for household federal food programs like TEFAP. Some of the food that supplies this program, which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), comes from the AMS bonus buy program. Read more »

Reap What You Sow: Choctaw Children Learn about Gardening and Cooking

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

“How many of you like vegetables?”  The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses.  But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight.  A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit.  A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite.  The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.

Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce.  The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »