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Michelle Obama

A Reflection: Celebrating Eight Years of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Looking back at USDA’s efforts to help rural America thrive, I am truly proud of the impact our diverse partners, both from faith and secular communities, have had within their communities. On behalf of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I would like to say thank you to our partners these past eight years as well as reflect on a few notable highlights of the work we have achieved together.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day, whether they realize it or not. While our programs to reduce food insecurity are well known, our nation’s most vulnerable citizens can still be hard to reach. Faith-based and community partners have been especially helpful in this area, particularly when it comes to feeding children in summer months, when school is out of session. In collaboration with many partners, including Catholic Charities USA, the Church of God in Christ, Islamic Relief USA, the National Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army, USDA increased the number of summer meals served to kids by 16% between 2009 and 2015, a total of more than 1.2 billion summer meals served when school is out and food is scarce.

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.

Nutrition.gov Helps America Celebrate National Nutrition Month

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual observance that encourages Americans to adopt a healthy eating pattern that includes nutritious and flavorful foods. What started as a week-long event in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics became a month-long celebration in 1980, thanks to growing public interest in nutrition. Food and nutrition professionals often celebrate this special month by providing educational and fun resources and treats—such as information booths, posters, games, recipes, and healthy snacks—to promote healthy eating in the workplace and at home. This year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” encourages food traditions and the appreciation of eating flavorful foods with friends and family.

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.

Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids' State Dinner

Calling all budding chefs! Do you like to cook and make healthy food for your friends and family? If so, you might be able to show off your skills and creativity to the First Lady of the United States and your peers from across the country. Learn more about how you can represent your state at the Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House this summer.

First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Education, and WGBH Boston invite you to enter the fourth annual Healthy Lunch Time Challenge & Kids’ “State Dinner.” Check out the past events here on the Let's Move! website and get inspired to participate in this year’s challenge.

Willow Cove Elementary Brings the Classroom Outside

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

“My carrot is burnt!” exclaimed a Willow Cove Elementary student in February, when they harvested carrots from the school garden for the first time. The student had never seen a purple carrot before and that day, the whole class enjoyed sample tastes of orange, white, and purple carrots. Carrots are just one of the many crops students have harvested from the Willow Cove garden, and they have a motivated teacher and their Nutrition Services department to thank for the experience.

At the start of last school year, Willow Cove Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher called the District’s Director of Nutrition Services, Matthew Belasco, to ask for a few milk crates to start a small window garden. Matthew, eager to get a school garden up and running, took this spark of interest and ran with it. Within a few hours, he arrived at Willow Cove with a wheel barrow, soil, shovels, and seeds, convinced the teacher that raised beds were preferable, and got to work planting the first school garden within Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD), just outside Willow Cove’s kindergarten classroom. Willow Cove’s success with maintaining the garden and engaging students with outdoor lessons created the momentum and excitement needed to begin expanding Pittsburg’s farm to school program.

US Forest Service Waives Fees in Support of the Largest, Single-Day Volunteer Effort on Public Lands

As the waning, sweltering summer days transition to the cooler weather of autumn many people take the opportunity to give back by participating in the annual National Public Lands Day.

The Sept. 27 event, in its 21st year, is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort in support of public lands. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers at 2,237 sites worked hard, collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, planted about 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plans and removed an estimated 500 tons of trash.

Just Like a Peach, Without the Fuzz

They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.

The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children.  As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.

Developing National Dietary Guidance for the Birth to 24 Months Age Group

Good nutrition is vital to optimal infant and toddler growth, development, and health. The importance of this age group has been emphasized by First Lady Michelle Obama, who said that “If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life.” So, making sure that even the youngest infants and toddlers are on the road to a healthy life is critical, and having national dietary guidance for infants and children from birth to 24 months can help make this happen.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides sound advice for making food and physical activity choices that promote good health and a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans, including Americans at increased risk of chronic disease. The DGA has traditionally focused on adults and children 2 years of age and older. Infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age have not been a focus in previous versions of the DGA because of their unique nutritional needs, eating patterns, and developmental stages.