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March 2016

SNAP-Ed Helps Spur Healthy Choices

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.

Encouraging all Americans to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One of the most important ways we do that is through nutrition education provided by USDA’s .

delivers evidence-based, coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention services and information to people participating in SNAP, as well as other eligible low-income families and communities.  Activities provided through SNAP-Ed encourage physical activity, work to improve nutrition, and prevent obesity.  These activities may include:

USDA Provides Nutritious U.S. Peanuts in Humanitarian Effort for Haiti

“Working for peanuts” is a phrase typically used when someone is toiling for little reward. But when describing the activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a far better phrase is “working with peanuts,” especially when referring to the agreement recently reached by USDA to provide this nutritional commodity to a neighboring nation in great need, the Republic of Haiti.

USDA crafted a deal that will result in 500 metric tons of packaged, dry-roasted peanuts grown in the United States to be shipped later this year to school children in Haiti who have little access to food.  This effort stems from the “Stocks for Food” program that first started in late 2007, a joint project between the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) that transfers sur farm commodities in government inventory to feeding programs and food banks both domestically and overseas.

A Visitor's Perspective: What Everyone Should Know about USDA and their Impact on Nutrition

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.

Until 6 months ago, I was a typical academic. I spent most of my time doing research on obesity. Apart from a few years in consulting between college and graduate school, my entire career has been in a university. Since so much of my research aims to inform policy, I decided it was time for me to see how decisions actually get made. This past summer, I had the good fortune of being selected to the White House Fellowship – a fantastic year-long program which provides an intimate view of federal policy making. Each fellow is placed in the executive branch, and my home for this year is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). At USDA, I work as a Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Kevin Concannon in Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. This is a great fit for me since USDA – among other things – oversees the suite of federal nutrition assistance programs that help low-income families (including mine when I was a young child) put food on the table in times of need.

To be frank, I thought I would love the experience and hate government. From my outsider perspective, government seemed clunky, inefficient and bloated with too many people doing redundant work. I was completely wrong.

Helping Kids Stay Active and Healthy This Summer

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.

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for communities and parents to start thinking about activities for kids when school is out.  With deliciously juicy local fruits and veggies coming into season and, in many areas, warmer weather that invites summer play, it may seem logical that keeping kids healthy would be easier during summer months. However, without the structure of school and afterschool sports, those lazy summer days can sometimes lead to constant snacking and endless hours playing video games and watching TV.

For some children, the summer months can mean food insecurity because they no longer have access to regular school meals. That’s where summer meal programs can help, not only by offering free healthy meals, but also by providing opportunities for nutrition education and physical activity.

As Summer Draws Near, We Set Lofty Goals to Feed More Kids than Ever

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.

You can tell by the smiles on the faces of Bradley, Alex, and Chris Lanthier that a well-fed kid is a happy kid! It’s smiling faces like these that make my job as Rural Housing Service Administrator so rewarding - these guys look as if they don’t have a care in the world. USDA Rural Housing Service is making a difference by helping kids, just be kids!

Yet it’s important to remember: unlike kids, hunger doesn’t take a vacation during the summer. Unfortunately, child hunger peaks during the summer months when kids from low-income families no longer have access to school meals.

Spotting Trends Based on 'What We Eat in America'

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.

The U.S. food supply is abundant, but many consumers are experiencing nutritional shortfalls. Some are overfed but undernourished at the same time. Observing trends in U.S. diets is possible based on food-consumption data collected during the annual “What We Eat in America/NHANES” dietary-intake survey.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is responsible for the consumption interview, one of several components of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The dietary survey is managed by researchers at the Food Surveys Research Group in Beltsville, Md., part of the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center.

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 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.

Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year.

USDA Helps Military Veterans Answer the Question, "What's Next?"

Each year, nearly 200,000 servicemen and women separate from active duty in the United States military.  According to the , this results in approximately 1,300 new veterans and their families returning to civilian life every single day, numbers that are expected to increase in the coming years. While many returning troops have plans and objectives upon their return home, many others have challenges finding new jobs, identifying health care resources, or integrating their skills into new careers.

For veterans exploring the next step in their careers and lives, USDA stands ready to help.  With rural Americans comprising only 16 percent of our total population, but about 40 percent of our military, USDA believes that the enormous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who served in the U.S. military can have enormous benefit for farming and ranching.

FAS Opens Up New Market Opportunities for U.S. Dairy Cattle in Pakistan

U.S. dairy cows are back in Pakistan for the first time in 17 years. More than 300 heifers arrived in Punjab Province on March 2, thanks to the efforts of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). It’s hoped the shipment will be the first of many from the United States and will provide a better breed of cow for the rapidly growing Pakistani dairy industry.

Most of the dairy cows have been purchased by commercial dairy farms, but 73 Holsteins in the shipment will be delivered to a new model dairy farm that FAS has established to support the rapidly growing Pakistani dairy industry and create new opportunities for U.S. exporters.