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Posts tagged: USDA Foods

Local Combines with American Grown

Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.

But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »

USDA Foods Get Even Greener

Lunch directors and school kids are giving USDA’s frozen broccoli the thumbs up, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Kathy Russell, School Food Service Director with Santa Gertrudis Independent School District located in Kingsville, Texas, praised the recent improvements in the USDA Foods.

Lunch directors and school kids are giving USDA’s frozen broccoli the thumbs up, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Kathy Russell, School Food Service Director with Santa Gertrudis Independent School District located in Kingsville, Texas, praised the recent improvements in the USDA Foods.

St. Patrick’s Day might be over, but at USDA we’re still sporting our green.  That’s because of the success of one food in particular—a vegetable underdog: broccoli!  As one of the newest additions to the USDA Foods lineup, AMS purchased 6.87 million pounds (nearly $7.6 million) of broccoli during FY 2013, and FY 2014 purchasing has been even more robust.

Each year, the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff (AMS-CP) spends nearly $2 billion on 2 billion pounds of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs, otherwise known as USDA Foods.  The AMS-CP mission is to support American agriculture and promote domestic production by purchasing commodities, while meeting the needs of federal food assistance programs across the country. Read more »

USDA Continues Reaching Indian Country through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.

These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.

Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting.  Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.

Food security is a top priority for the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.” Read more »

Expanding Healthy, American-Produced Food Offerings to Our Schools – USDA’s Pilot Program for Greek-Style Yogurt

Protein products, like Greek-style yogurt, are consistently among the most popular items available to schools through the USDA Foods program.

Protein products, like Greek-style yogurt, are consistently among the most popular items available to schools through the USDA Foods program.

The USDA Foods program offers a wide variety of nutritious, 100 percent domestically produced food to help the nation’s schools feed our children and support U.S. agriculture. Each state participating in the National School Lunch Program annually receives a USDA Foods entitlement, which may be spent on any of the over 180 foods offered on the USDA Foods list.   Last year, the Food and Nutrition Service added an additional product to that list through a pilot program to offer Greek-style (i.e., high-protein yogurt) to schools in Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee.

These states were able to order any quantity of Greek-style yogurt they chose for delivery from September to November 2013 within the balance of their USDA Foods entitlement. Not surprisingly, the overall response to the pilot was very positive. The states’ collective orders totaled 199,800 pounds of yogurt. Read more »

Oh the Meals You Can Make With USDA Foods and Some Creativity

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” These words, spoken by Albert Einstein, can hold true for anything. USDA’s Commodity Procurement Program enjoys seeing schools and other organizations develop creative, healthy meals featuring foods we purchase for federal feeding programs. We hope that finding innovative ways to use USDA foods is contagious and that others catch on.

During a recent conference, USDA saw how a bit of ingenuity can turn low-sodium corn, dried beans, and fresh squash into a tasty meal. Inspired by the American Indian tradition of the three sisters, Tocabe, an American Indian Eatery used corn and beans from USDA Foods and squash from the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to make a healthy soup. Read more »

Learning from Promising Models and Leaders in the North Star State

In my position as Under Secretary, I occasionally travel the country to meet with, and learn from, some of the many partners who administer and leverage the USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs. These programs—from school meals to SNAP (formerly food stamps)—currently touch the lives of one in four Americans.

During a whirlwind visit to Minnesota in March, I had the opportunity to meet with a variety of individuals and organizations directly or indirectly involved with one or more of our nutrition programs. For starters, I participated in a terrific roundtable at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health hosted by national nutrition expert Dr. Mary Story, a strong supporter of healthy school meals. Minnesota Senator Al Franken joined me to hear from local organizations and agencies that administer nutrition assistance programs, promote good nutrition or even work with farmers markets. I was impressed with the accomplishments being realized and the creative approaches employed by local partners to improve nutrition, eliminate hunger, support children and families, and connect farmers to local markets. Read more »