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Promoting Integrity through Improved Technology

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you already know that USDA is committed to continuously improving the integrity of their programs.  We strive to operate our programs effectively and efficiently.  We aim to provide program participants with the best service possible, while ensuring taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck.

We go about this in a number of different ways.  In previous posts, we’ve shared how we’re streamlining the USDA organic certification process; highlighted our prize competition, which crowdsourced design ideas to minimize error in school meals applications; and featured ways we’re working to educate farmers on official grain standards, sampling and grading rules.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program Responds to the First Lady's #GimmeFive Challenge!

Through its 15 nutrition assistance programs, USDA strives to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides aid to child and adult care centers and family or group day care homes for the provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children and the health and wellness of older adults and chronically impaired disabled persons. CACFP administrators and program operators receive support from many advocacy organizations who help ensure children and adults participating in CACFP receive nutritious meals. Below is a story from one of those advocacy organizations, the Child Care Food Program Roundtable.

By Chris Clark, Child Care Food Program Roundtable

In 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to end childhood obesity, Let’s Move!, celebrated its fifth anniversary. To mark the occasion, she issued the #GimmeFive challenge which encouraged all Americans to do five things to lead a healthier lifestyle. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) community heard this call to action and developed its own CACFP Take ACTION Challenge. That Challenge was launched at the 2015 CCFP Roundtable Conference, where over 500 conference attendees got up, got moving and performed the #GimmeFive Dance!

Variety is Key When Serving Grains

The programs within USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) strive to provide Americans with the assistance and information they need to maintain healthy lifestyles.

In achieving that mission, FNCS relies heavily on the advice of experts, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Recently, the level of arsenic in rice has received increased attention, and FDA has proposed a maximum allowable level of arsenic in infant rice cereal products. Because of the new proposed guidance issued by FDA, which is open to public comment now, USDA is working to assist growers and processors wishing to utilize their products for infant rice cereal to ensure that their rice does not contain amounts of arsenic that surpass the new limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb).

Raising Awareness of CACFP Across the Nation

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA is highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation. We could not have done this work without the support of our partners. Below is a story from one of our partners, the National CACFP Sponsors Association.  Family child care homes, as well as some child care centers and afterschool programs, participate in Child and Adult Care Food Programs under sponsoring organizations. The ongoing support and training that sponsors routinely provide helps CACFP providers serve nutritious meals and keep children healthy.

By Vicki Lipscomb, President, National CACFP Sponsors Association

Did you know CACFP provides 1.9 billion meals and snacks for over 3.3 million children?

Hunger is unacceptable to everyone. To combat the food insecurity that one in four Americans face, there are a number of government programs designed to provide access to healthy food. Many people know about USDA’s school lunch program and you may have even heard of the WIC program, but did you know that the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides 1.9 billion meals and snacks to over 3.3 million children in child care centers, family care homes and after-school programs?  In addition, CACFP provides that same access to over 115,000 elderly persons in adult day care.

Stretching the Clock and Enhancing the Food Aisles Make for Better Eating in Tribal Nations

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Food insecurity, and the social factors associated with it, can have a profound impact on any U.S. demographic. But two Indian reservations have recently found ways to tackle this very issue and illustrate how a little bit of brainstorming and community-building can go a long way to feed kids and grown-ups.

Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you a good chunk of their income goes toward putting food on the table. While that is taken as a given, what isn’t always obvious are the challenges parents encounter and the behind-the-scenes struggles moms and dads face to make sure there’s enough money to take care of this basic need. School meals are an important part of a child’s daily nutrition. But when the school day is done – and often when children are most hungry – that’s when parents may feel the pinch the most.

Every Additional Kid Is a Win: Breaking Down Barriers Around Afterschool Meals

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation. We could not have done this work without the support of our partners. Below is a story from one of our partners, Share Our Strength, about a pilot conducted through our Child and Adult-care Food Program, or CACFP.  Through CACFP, schools can offer one meal and/or one snack in a congregate meal setting as part of enrichment programs offered outside of regular school hours.

By Wendy Bolger, Director of Program Innovation Strategy, No Kid Hungry

“Any time we can feed an additional kid, even just one, that’s a win!”

Who doesn’t need an energy boost around 3pm?   Kids may be out of school by 3pm, but their day is far from done.  Most kids have a full afternoon of sports, activities, and homework to do, and to be successful, growing bodies and child-sized tummies require a nutritional boost.

Farm to Preschool Helps Healthy Habits Take Root Early

“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.

Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.

What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl: A Collection of Recipes for Schools and Child Care Centers

This is the third installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will high­­light the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.

USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services is excited to have an interactive website that can help Child Nutrition professionals expand their portfolio of recipes.  The newly released What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl Web site is a searchable database of recipes that can be used by school nutrition and child care center professionals in their foodservice operations.

The What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl includes more than 1,000 mouth-watering recipes that are scaled for large quantity foodservice.  Most recipes for school nutrition yield 50 or 100 portions per recipe, while most recipes for child care centers yield 25 or 50 portions per recipe.  So that these popular dishes can be shared with parents and prepared at home, many of these recipes are available in the household search with fewer portions per recipe.

USDA Tribal Collaboration Strengthens Food Security on Nevada's Indian Reservations

Today in Nevada more than one in four children (28 percent) live in households that cannot reliably provide nutritious meals every day.  This dubious distinction makes it the state with the nation’s fourth highest rate of child hunger.  And for children living on Indian reservations, the incidence of hunger may be even higher.

What does food insecurity look like on Nevada reservations?  With few places to shop, reservation residents have very limited access to fresh produce.  Food insecurity not only equates to a lack of nutritious foods available, but also means families must drive great distances to a grocery store.  To cope, families choose more canned and frozen foods that will last until the next weekly or monthly shopping trip, which often means less consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Good News about Early Childhood Obesity Rates

USDA believes in giving children a foundation for life-long health through access to healthy food and quality nutrition education.  So, that’s why we are encouraged by a couple of recent studies that indicate that the rates of obesity among young children are declining.  One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that rates of obesity among young children ages 2-5 years have declined in the last decade, while another found that obesity is declining in low-income preschoolers in 19 states.  These results suggest that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the health of our next generation!  These findings were noted by Dr. Bill Dietz, former Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity during his presentation at the 3rd meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on March 14, 2014.

Efforts to turn the tide of obesity, both within the Federal government and in communities across the country, are having an impact in the preschool population.  The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services programs are an important part of these efforts.  Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, USDA is making critical changes to the foods available to children – even the picky eaters.