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fresh fruit and vegetable program

Collier County, Florida, Features Highly Successful Farm to School Program

Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches.  In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”

By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.

“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program.

Jackson-Madison County Schools Demonstrate the Power of Youth Engagement

In today’s installment of our Cafeteria Stories series, we highlight the innovative and successful school nutrition strategies that a Tennessee school district is using to positively impact the health of our next generation.  I believe very strongly in the power of student engagement, and the Jackson-Madison County School District is expertly tapping into that resource.  By empowering students and integrating them into the program structure, they have altered food culture and made the healthy choice the desirable choice within and outside of the school walls.  We thank them for sharing their story!

Guest Blog By: Susan Johnson, School Nutrition Director of Jackson-Madison County School System

Sometimes I hear people say that kids don’t like the healthy foods they are served at school, but what I see every day in the 27 schools that make up the Jackson-Madison County School System tells me otherwise. My staff and I see our students choosing to not only eat, but also grow fruits and vegetables, and educate others about the benefits of making healthy choices daily.

At our schools, we are committed to maintaining high standards for the food that we serve to students so that they can flourish in and outside of the classroom. In 2008, our district set minimum nutrition standards for food offered to students in grades PreK-8, which put us on the right track to comply with the USDA’s school meals standards and the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, which went into effect this summer. Enrolling in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program provided us with specific tools, such as the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, that enabled us to not only meet, but exceed, federal standards at our schools today.

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.

Secretary's Column: Research Shows that Kids Like Healthy Options

The U.S. Department of Agriculture works every day to improve childhood nutrition and combat obesity in order to raise a healthier generation of Americans.

In recent days, we have had some positive developments in this work.  USDA released a promising new report on the impacts of providing our children with healthy snacks. We also took new steps to provide families with better information to combat obesity.

Ask a School Meals Expert: What do the New Calorie Standards Mean for my Child?

You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu.  These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions.  We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.

The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches.  However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs.

Supporting the Healthy Growth of Our Children During National School Lunch Week

Fresh and healthy foods are the focus again as we celebrate National School Lunch Week.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy,” and schools across the country are touting the many ways they are introducing fresh fruits and vegetables and healthier choices on their menus.

USDA Fresh Fruit and Veggie Program Earns Rave Reviews from Dayton Students

Recently, an interesting letter came across my desk. The letter was from an Ohio school nurse who wanted USDA to know that students at E. J. Brown Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, LOVE their USDA-funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), now in its second year.  And that makes E.J. Brown’s school nurse Virginia Noe, who wrote the letter, a huge fan of the program and its many positive effects on student eating behavior, health and learning.  Noe shared her thoughts in the enthusiastic and heartfelt letter.