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U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Play a Key Role During Back-to-School Season

Posted by Kevin Barnes, Acting NASS Administrator in Research and Science
Aug 19, 2021
Four elementary school students eat lunch in a school cafeteria

The transition between summer and fall marks another distinct season: Back-to-school. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and America’s farmers and ranchers are critical to preparing students for long school days – from pop quizzes to soccer practice. USDA is providing a back-to-school support kit to assist with menu planning as well as grants to help states develop new school meal recipes that feature local agricultural products.

In a typical school year (on an average school day), 30 million children participate in FNS’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and 15 million participate in the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

We have farmers to thank for the nutritious options student have this school year.

Dairy foods continue to play an important role on school menus, as evidenced by this new guide on offering smoothies at lunch and breakfast. According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) monthly Dairy Products report (PDF, 440 KB), yogurt production – both plain and flavored – totaled 386.1 million pounds in June 2021.

During back-to-school, FNS has been sharing ways schools can add fruits and vegetables to their menus through its School Meals Grab n Go Newsletters. In 2020, California was the top state for carrots for area planted (60,400 acres). In 2020, the value of utilized production for the 21 noncitrus fruit crops (such as grapes, apples, and strawberries) totaled $14.7 billion (PDF, 1.4 MB) nationally.

USDA and its 17 agencies are proud to help feed kids across the country and recognize the work of producers in achieving that goal. Learn more about NASS censuses, surveys, and the upcoming 2022 Census of Agriculture.

Category/Topic: Research and Science