As Deputy Under Secretaries, it’s not every day that we get to don aprons and make chicken enchiladas as part of our work. But during a visit to Tyler Elementary School in Virginia’s Prince William County to celebrate National Nutrition Month, that’s exactly what we did!
There we joined Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) to meet state and school district officials and discuss the challenges they’ve faced in keeping nutritious foods on the menu at the 95 schools in their county. We were impressed with the creative ways nearly 800 school nutrition professionals there are overcoming supply chain issues and encouraged to hear how they frequently incorporate locally sourced foods into school meals.
The timing couldn’t have been better for us to also talk about the recent supplemental American Rescue Plan funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP). LAMP grants promote competition and create more and better markets for local and regional food producers by expanding and strengthening opportunities to sell to institutions including schools.
After meeting with a terrific group of students, we talked with the school nutrition staff who gave us a hands-on lesson in one of the scratch recipes they make for the nearly 77,000 meals the district serves each day. Using locally sourced chicken and tortillas from a nearby taqueria, we helped prepare one of the many delicious items on the school lunch menu that day: chicken enchiladas!
As we prepared to leave the school, we watched kids making their way to the cafeteria, ready to enjoy the healthy foods we prepared alongside the dedicated staff. Their smiles reminded us how important our work is at USDA, whether it’s in an office, the field, or in this case, a school cafeteria.