Skip to main content

HHFKA

A Conversation with USDA Leader Audrey Rowe

Audrey Rowe serves as the Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service.  Rowe oversees the nation’s 15 federal nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

“I started my career as an elementary school teacher… and I didn’t last very long because I saw such challenges with learning and health. I saw that school policies treated kids differently based on where their community was located, so I became an advocate for low-income children and families because they often don’t have a strong voice.” – Audrey Rowe

Concannon: Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs So They Benefit Children

It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.

Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards.  Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children.

Georgia School Gardens Nourish Healthy Habits

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, and I can tell you it has made a difference!  I think back on the past five years and am proud of the strides we’ve made in giving students access to more local and healthy food in our schools.

Accompanied by FNS Administrator Audrey Rowe, I had a wonderful visit with two Georgia elementary schools this fall. Our trip to Alexander II Magnet School in Bibb County and Westside Elementary School in Houston County highlighted 2015 National School Lunch Week celebrations (October 12-16) and offered a great example of progress on the school meals front.

Five Years of Working Toward a Healthy, Hunger-Free Generation

This time of year, it often feels like time is flying by. As we take time to step back and reflect on the past, we often think, “My, my, where did the time go?” or “It feels like just yesterday…” or “How could it be almost 2016 already?”  Many of us at USDA are feeling a bit nostalgic too, wondering: “Could it really be half a decade since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) passed!?”

But as we commemorate the anniversary of the passage of HHFKA, we realize how far our country has come over the last five years toward achieving the goal of ensuring every American child has access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults.  HHFKA’s historic investment in the health of our nation’s children has enabled USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to expand and improve a number of our programs and services to better help those in need.

2015: A Banner Year for School Meals and the Health of our Nation's Schoolchildren

It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them.  Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few:

Child Nutrition: The Key to Creating the Healthiest Nation

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Public Health Association (APHA). The association is a tireless advocate working to create the healthiest nation. APHA strives to reach that goal through science-based research, and education.

By Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

As kids across the country begin a new school year, they’ll be hitting the books to learn important skills to be successful later in life. They’ll also be visiting cafeterias, vending machines and school stores for the foods and beverages they need to fuel their growing bodies and for achieving academic success. With nearly one in three children overweight or obese, it’s critical that healthy meals are available to them throughout the school environment.

School Embraces Nutrition Standards to the Culinary Delight of Its Students

Locally-sourced fish baked in fresh herbs and oil topped with a fresh cilantro slaw…It sounds like a dish from a five star restaurant, but it’s just one of many recipes registered dietitian and director of nutrition services Jenn Gerard offers students for lunch in her California school district. Learn how Monterey Peninsula Schools embraced the new nutrition standards, using them as a springboard to enhance their impressive school meals programs.

By Jenn Gerard, R.D., Director of Nutrition Services, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

I began my career in child nutrition at 26 years old in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD).  Six months later I was stepping into the director position during one of the biggest changes in school meal regulations, attributed to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010.

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Direct Certification Improves Low-Income Children's Access to Healthy School Meals, Boosts Program Efficiency

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is committed to helping America’s children get the nutritious food they need to learn and grow.  Direct certification for school meals is one important strategy to make that possible for the low-income children.  This process links student enrollment records to states’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program data, so children receiving SNAP or TANF can be directly certified for free school meals without having to submit additional paperwork through applications. 

By using data already verified through SNAP and TANF, direct certification improves efficiency and accuracy for schools.  Just as importantly, families are spared the burden of a separate meals application.  Congress made direct certification a requirement for all schools through the 2004 Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act.

Sound Nutrition: What Every Child Needs

Pediatricians understand all too well the toll that obesity and malnutrition are taking on the health and well-being of our nation’s children. Pediatricians, not politicians, know what’s best for the health of our children, which is why the healthier school meals are based on the advice of pediatricians and nutrition experts. With doctors, parents, teachers and schools all working together, we can make sure our kids get the healthy start in life they deserve. --Secretary Vilsack

By: Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, @AAPPres

Over the years in my weight management clinic, it became clear to me that addressing each child’s medical needs, such as the need for lifestyle counseling treatment for obesity-related liver disease, type 2 diabetes, or sleep apnea, was a crucial part of my job as a pediatrician. So was caring for the whole child. That meant working to meet three of their most basic needs outside the walls of my pediatric practice: sound nutrition and healthy physical activity; stable, nurturing relationships in families, early child care settings and schools; and safe environments and communities where children live, learn and play.