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 »
Reed Fitton has enhanced honey bee habitat on the pastures he manages near Gays Mills, Wisconsin.
Reed Fitton grazes cattle on the same hilltop farm where the late conservationist Ben Logan grew up and later featured in his memoir, “The Land Remembers.” Fitton carefully manages the farm near Gays Mills, Wisconsin with a broad conservation ethic, preventing soil erosion and protecting waterways. He has also transformed the Ben Logan’s “Seldom Seen Farm” into an oasis for honey bees and other pollinators.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a new coordinated effort to improve honey bee habitat in 2014, Fitton was one of the first to participate. He works closely with NRCS to make improvements to the land that provide better forage for his cattle, improve existing hayfields and convert former corn fields into healthy pasture. Read more »
Ripe berries on the vine ready to be picked at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass. Photo by Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries used with permission.
Most have probably heard Wisconsin’s famous moniker “The America’s Dairyland.” This nickname is definitely befitting considering our long history with milk production. But, while our milk, cheeses, and other dairy products are available year-round, the fall season brings attention to a completely different commodity. I’m talking about cranberries.
Alongside pumpkins, apples, and pears, cranberries are a staple of American cuisine during the fall months. But did you know that most cranberries in the United States come from Wisconsin? Our growers produce 60 percent of the cranberries in the United States? Last year alone, more than 5 million barrels of cranberries came from Wisconsin. One barrel weighs 100 pounds, which means our growers produced more than 250,000 tons of this amazing fruit. Read more »
Horticultural research at land-grant universities is coming up with better types of grass that stands up to the stresses of NFL football. (iStock image)
Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal. Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.
All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic. So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding. Read more »
Across the nation there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. Photo: Auburn University College of Agriculture.
Thanks to a recent grant from USDA, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is now in better position to help get locally grown potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, and cheese onto school lunch plates. In Wisconsin, and across the nation, there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. USDA is helping create economic opportunities for producers by supporting projects that increase access to fresh, healthy food for students and consumers, and connect rural and urban communities.
Today Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $35 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies around the country. These grant programs play an important role in American agriculture and in communities by supporting local and regional food systems and giving farmers and ranchers the chance to explore new market opportunities. Read more »
An elementary school student in West New York, New Jersey, enjoys a farm fresh bite of yellow tomato, delivered to the school that morning.
Happy National Farm to School Month! Every October, the USDA Farm to School team is overwhelmed with stories of how farm to school programs are affecting kids, producers, and communities. Having now made 221 grants to school districts and other entities across the country to pursue projects that bring more local foods into schools and teach kids about where their foods comes from, we experience a steady stream of encouraging stories throughout the year. Stories about local farmers proudly supplying grains for a district’s whole grain baked goods; stories about school food service staff dressing up like fruits and vegetables to encourage healthy eating; stories about kids growing beets in the school garden and then devouring them when they show up in the cafeteria. During Farm to School Month, these anecdotes proliferate–on social media, on blogs, and via news stories. They inspire us, amuse us, and sometimes even make us tear up, but they don’t unequivocally prove that these programs work. For that, we rely on studies and surveys, on journal articles and evaluation results. Read more »