Skip to main content

Let's Move

The Annual Harvest Challenge: Student Teams Supported by Chefs Move to Schools and Farm to School

Cross-posted from the Let's Move blog:

The annual Harvest Challenge, menu planning and cooking event for high school students, is an important example of how aspiring chefs get started and learn to create winning recipes.

This exciting contest, which is now going into its 8th year, challenges teams of high school students – including staff and chef mentors – to develop a creative, appetizing and visually appealing school lunch entrée and side dish while incorporating locally grown foods. At the same time, the entrée and side dish must comply with USDA National School Lunch nutrition standards and meet a budget of $1 per person per serving (entrée and side dish combined). “This is a fun and challenging event for our high school students that really enables them to appreciate the hard work that goes into school food programs,” says Ashlee Gabrielson, director of the Vernon County Farm to School Program in Wisconsin.

Chefs Move to Schools! How to Put on a Junior Chef Competition

Cross-posted from the Let's Move blog:

Student culinary competitions are becoming a fun and popular learning tool utilized by many schools throughout the country to engage students in creating healthy, appealing meals. These events encourage students to eat more nutritious foods, as well as give students a voice about foods in schools, showcase school nutrition programs and stimulate interest in local agriculture.

To simplify the planning process and assist schools that may be interested in hosting a student cooking competition, the Institute of Child Nutrition, in conjunction with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, has developed the Chefs Move to Schools: Junior Chef Competition toolkit. Customizable based on the needs of the school, the toolkit includes how-to information as well as sample rules, forms, and guidelines for planning and pulling off a culinary competition at school.

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!

Students from Every State and Territory Show Off Local Pride with MyPlate-Inspired Meals at the 5th Annual Kids' "State Dinner"

At the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, we are excited about using local foods and flavors to create healthy and delicious plates. Through our MyPlate, MyState initiative, we are working to connect American families with the foods grown in their communities – raising awareness that all healthy foods and flavors have a place on MyPlate.  As part of that initiative it was my privilege to attend the 5th annual Kids’ “State Dinner” last month, when the winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, were honored for their MyPlate-inspired recipes.  For the first time this year’s contest, in which young chefs ages 8-12 from across the country create healthy recipes and show off their food know-how, included an emphasis on local and regional foods through MyPlate, MyState.

It was thrilling to see such creative approaches to amplifying local and regional foods. The winners truly captured the agricultural, historical, and cultural significance of their communities through food. I had the pleasure of meeting many amazing young chefs in attendance, including 11-year-old Abhijith from Missouri, who incorporated local catfish into his recipe, and 12-year-old Grace from West Virginia, who picked the vegetables in her dish from a community garden.

People's Garden Initiative Launches New Website to Celebrate National Garden Month

Spring has sprung and April is National Garden Month! It’s time to pick up your trowel and get gardening.

USDA launched the new People’s Garden website that provides tools and resources gardeners can use to start or expand a home, school or community garden. Unveiled during today’s annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House, here are just some of the new features:

National Ag Day: Where Was the Food On Your Plate Grown?

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.

Recently, the Let’s Move! campaign issued its annual call for kids to enter original recipes into the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.  One winner from each state will be selected to attend the 2016 Kids “State Dinner” at the White House, where a selection of the winning recipes will be served. This year, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is putting a spotlight on homegrown pride and encouraging entries from across the country that include ingredients grown in your state, territory, or community, celebrating MyPlate, MyState.

"Fuel Up to Play 60" Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few.

Kids' "State Dinner": Celebrating Healthy Cooking at the White House

Don’t let the name fool you; attending the Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House is an exciting experience for both kids and adults alike.  As a nutritionist with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, I had the privilege of being both a judge and an attendee for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a contest where young chefs-in-training practice creating their own MyPlate-inspired healthy recipes.  The winners of this competition are in turn honored on July 10 with a special invitation to the White House for the Kids’ “State Dinner” and I joined these talented, young chefs for an unforgettable experience.

Kids and their guardians participated in a welcome reception prior to getting their picture taken with the First Lady. Excitement, and the sweet smell of fresh produce, was certainly in the air! However, it wasn’t just the recipes at the “State Dinner” that were inspired by MyPlate—even the centerpieces were created by using a variety of fruits and vegetables!

The Results Are In: Judging the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

This spring, kids from across the country honed their culinary and nutrition skills to participate in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, and the wait is over to find out who received the top spot from each of the 50 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The winners of the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge have been announced on Let’s Move’s! website. Find out who the top kid chef is from your area and the recipe that secured them a seat at the White House for the Kids’ State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama.

On May 15th, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion was pleased to take part in the judging of this year’s top two recipes from each area along with representatives from Let’s Move!, the Department of Education, Wholesome Wave Foundation, and most importantly – other kids, including previous winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and recent graduates from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program. The judges met at the DC Convention Center to personally taste test each of the top dishes, 108 dishes in all! The dishes were prepared by DC Central Kitchen staff and were rated on a scale of 1-5 based on: nutritional value, taste, creativity, originality, affordability, and an essay accompanying the recipe. Kids were also encouraged to reference ChooseMyPlate.gov and incorporate foods from each of MyPlate’s five food groups in their entries.

April is National Garden Month

Nothing says springtime more than the sprouts and shoots of a garden. Secretary Vilsack has declared April, 2015 as National Garden Month.  The official proclamation celebrates the great American tradition of gardening at home, at school and in the community.

USDA’s commitment to gardening has deep roots. The USDA People’s Garden Initiative, was launched in 2009 and since 2,116 gardens have registered as People’s Gardens in communities across the United States and its territories and in 12 foreign countries.  The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative has great information about starting a kitchen, school or community garden and the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is a go-to guide for gardeners across the nation.   Have a gardening question? Visit eXtension for in-depth and research-based gardening and landscape advice from your local land grant university.