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nutrition education

Getting a School Garden Blooming

School gardens are gaining popularity across the country. In Texas, nearly 3,000 schools participate in farm to school activities. Some of these schools work with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go program. Jeff Raska, a school garden specialist with the AgriLife Extension, works with numerous programs and offers practical advice to schools establishing a school garden. Here, he discusses the importance of a strong school garden committee.

By Jeff Raska, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Dallas County Texas

A school vegetable garden can be a wonderful outdoor classroom for studying natural science. Having worked with school gardens on and off for more than 25 years, I have seen many great school garden programs bloom, and then fade as time passes and school priorities change. For the last seven years, I’ve had the privilege of working with school gardens as a 4-H Club program assistant for Dallas County and have had the benefit of seeing a wide range of needs and challenges that schools face when trying to start a garden. However, the most successful programs have a few important things in place.

Local School Wellness Policy Toolkit Now Available

New resources are now available to help school districts engage parents and school staff in Local School Wellness Policy efforts.  A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being and ability to learn.  It’s important for parents and school staff to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of both the community and student’s needs.  

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Team Nutrition initiative has developed a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that school districts and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents and staff.  The kit includes:

Farm to School Goes Year Round in the Northeast

Over the past few summers, sponsors of have been elevating meal quality and encouraging program participation by serving seasonal menus, utilizing high quality ingredients, and providing nutrition education activities. We’ve heard of such activities – the embedding of farm to school principles within summer meals programs – from practitioners all around the country. Here in the Northeast, summer 2016 brought a wave of coordinated programming, and is the perfect time to celebrate this trend that is supporting healthy kids and communities all year long!

National Farm to School Month Highlights Benefits to America's Students and Communities

It’s and USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems is here to help…and not just in October!  All year long, we offer research, grants, training and technical assistance to help connect child nutrition programs with local foods.  Here’s why.

Farm to school helps form healthy habits. By incorporating local foods, farm to school programs help school meal programs fulfill the updated nutrition standards with appealing and diverse offerings.  And the results are impressive.  The recent shows farm to school programs now exist in every state in the nation and in every type of school district – large and small, rural and urban alike. With that in mind, we plan to build on this momentum!

Our Students Have a Voice in School Meals

One key strategy in helping schools serve nutritious and appealing meals that students will eat is to simply ask, “What do you need?”

On April 9, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked this simple yet compelling question to nearly 40 4-H delegates at the in Chevy Chase, Md. USDA FNS hosted the roundtable session, “Healthy Eating in Schools:  A Dialogue with USDA Food & Nutrition Service,” in an effort to give eager student leaders a chance to share their views on school meals and healthy eating. Participants came from all across the U.S. states and territories, from Nebraska to North Carolina, and as far away as Puerto Rico and a U.S. Air Force base in Japan.

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:

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.

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.

Stretching the Clock and Enhancing the Food Aisles Make for Better Eating in Tribal Nations

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Food insecurity, and the social factors associated with it, can have a profound impact on any U.S. demographic. But two Indian reservations have recently found ways to tackle this very issue and illustrate how a little bit of brainstorming and community-building can go a long way to feed kids and grown-ups.

Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you a good chunk of their income goes toward putting food on the table. While that is taken as a given, what isn’t always obvious are the challenges parents encounter and the behind-the-scenes struggles moms and dads face to make sure there’s enough money to take care of this basic need. School meals are an important part of a child’s daily nutrition. But when the school day is done – and often when children are most hungry – that’s when parents may feel the pinch the most.

Of Bison and Blue Cornmeal: USDA Supports Access to Traditional Foods in Native American Communities

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.

In Indian Country, culture and tradition are sustained through shared meals with family and the community. Traditional foods are a powerful way for each new generation to connect with and honor its history and its ancestors.

Bison and blue cornmeal have recently graced the tables of participants in USDA’s thanks to the joint commitment of the and , working with the FDPIR community to identify and procure foods traditional to many tribes. Last year, AMS awarded two contracts to Native American-owned small businesses to deliver frozen, lean ground bison meat to FDPIR. From November 2015 to the end of June 2016, these companies are on schedule to deliver a total of 520,000 pounds of bison meat. A third contract was awarded for whole-grain blue cornmeal. This product was received by tribes during the 2015 holiday season for use in a wide variety of recipes and cultural dishes.

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