Merrigan delivered remarks to thousands of school nutrition professionals at the three-day event, which provided an opportunity to discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the health and nutrition of meals served through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programmes.
“By working closely with school nutrition professionals, the Obama Administration is promoting initiatives that provide kids with access to nutritious foods and information to teach them healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime,” said Merrigan. “Farm to school programmes are a great way to bring more fresh, local produce into school cafeterias and support local farmers as well. Many schools are also using Farm to School programmes to teach students where their food comes from through nutrition education.”
A USDA Farm to School Team was established in 2009 as a result of discussions within the department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which seeks to create new economic opportunities by promoting local and regional food systems that help keep wealth in rural communities.
These discussions focused on the need to develop strategies to enhance market opportunities for local farmers, as well as the need to better connect farmers with consumers and thereby increase public understanding of American agriculture. Farm to School was quickly identified as a strategy that could potentially contribute to both goals.
During 2010, the team visited 15 school districts across the country that were involved in farm to school related activities in varying capacities, reviewed resource materials, participated in national and regional conferences and consulted with other organisations that worked with the farm to school community. The new report summarises the observations of these activities and provides suggestions for further action by the USDA to support schools in obtaining fresh and healthy food from their local and regional food systems.
USDA’s Farm to School Team found that communities are passionate about providing locally grown products to schools and work hard to overcome challenges such as the limited availability of local agricultural products and difficulties with processing and storage.
“With one in every three children in America at risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease due to overweight and obesity, school nutrition improvements are an investment in improving our children’s future and are critical to helping them maintain optimal health,” said Merrigan.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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