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Fruits and vegetables top the list of locally produced foods served in U.S. schools

Thursday, June 4, 2015

According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 36 percent of the U.S. public school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving at least some locally produced foods in school lunches or breakfasts during school years 2011-12 or 2012-13. While fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods served in schools in 2011-12, 45 percent of the school districts that used local foods reported serving locally produced milk, and 27 percent reported serving locally produced baked goods. Some States have State-produced foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products included in the products donated by USDA for use in school meals (a program called USDA Foods). The DOD Fresh Program allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the Department of Defense, which provides information to districts on foods that are sourced locally. This chart appeared in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Share of U.S. school districts serving locally produced foods varies by State

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established the USDA Farm to School Program to encourage school districts to use locally produced food for school-provided breakfasts and lunches. USDA’s Farm to School Census, covering school years 2011-12 and 2012-13, found that 36 percent of the 9,887 public school districts that responded to the Census served locally produced food in their school meal programs, and an additional 9 percent planned to serve local foods in the future. Many States have legislation encouraging local sources of foods for school meals, and in a handful of States (Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii) more than 80 percent of school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving some local foods. In 10 other States, 20 percent or fewer districts reported serving local foods. Some of the hurdles to serving local foods cited by school districts included lack of year-round availability of key items, high prices for local foods, and lack of availability of local foods from primary vendors. This map appears in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Strict <em>Salmonella</em> standards contribute to safety of school lunches

Friday, February 27, 2015

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides about half of the ground beef served in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by purchasing raw and cooked ground beef products from U.S. meat producers. AMS-approved suppliers must meet AMS’s basic standards. AMS suppliers can be “active” and sell to the NSLP or be “inactive” and sell in commercial markets only. Active ground beef suppliers must adhere to a strict Salmonella standard. A recent ERS study found that on average, ground beef from all groups of producers examined had levels of Salmonella below the limit set by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Researchers also found that AMS standards incentivize producers to supply ground beef to the NSLP that has lower levels of Salmonella contamination (0.7 percent of samples testing positive) than the ground beef the same suppliers sell to commercial buyers (1.6 percent of samples testing positive). Plants supplying ground beef to the NSLP performed better on Salmonella tests than commercial-only and inactive AMS plants. This chart appears in “Strict Standards Nearly Eliminate Salmonella From Ground Beef Supplied to Schools” in the February 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Schools get locally-produced foods from a variety of sources

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

USDA encourages school districts to source locally-produced food through its Farm to School Program established as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Data from USDA’s Farm to School Census, reflecting responses from 9,887 public school districts (75 percent of all U.S. public school districts), reveal that 4,322 districts were serving at least some local foods in school year 2011-2012 or started to in 2012-2013. The top local foods categories were fruits and vegetables, milk, and baked goods. Nearly two-thirds of districts participating in farm to school activities purchased local foods through a distributor. A little over 40 percent of these districts obtained local foods directly from farmers and other producers, while 40 percent sourced local foods from food processors and manufacturers. Some States arrange to have State-produced fruits and vegetables included in the commodities donated by USDA for use in school meals. This chart appears in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.

During economic downturns, more children receive free and reduced-price school lunches

Thursday, May 30, 2013

USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is the Nation’s second largest food and nutrition assistance program. In fiscal year 2012, expenditures totaled $11.6 billion and an average 31.6 million children participated in the program on a typical school day. While total participation is closely linked to school enrollment and does not vary with economic conditions, the share of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches rises during economic downturns. During the Great Recession (December 2007 to June 2009) and continuing through 2010, the share of NSLP participants receiving free or reduced-price meals grew from 59 to 65 percent. Preliminary data for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 show that this share continued to rise even after the unemployment rate started to decline, suggesting that economic conditions did not improve enough to raise people out of poverty and the need for assistance remained high. This chart appears in the May 2013 Amber Waves article, “Economic Conditions Affect the Share of Children Receiving Free or Reduced-Price School Lunches.”

Participation in USDA's Summer Food Service Program remained high in 2011

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Summer Food Service Program is one of five major domestic food assistance programs administered by USDA that exclusively or primarily serve the nutritional needs of children. The program served 137 million meals and snacks at a cost to USDA of $373 million in fiscal year 2011, primarily during summer vacation. The number of sites offering summer meals to children grew from 38,471 in 2010 to 39,063 in 2011, while participation remained steady at 2.3 million children after rising in each of the last four years. This chart is from the Child Nutrition Programs: Summer Food Service Program topic page on the ERS website, updated July 11, 2012.

After-school snack component of USDA's National School Lunch Program is growing

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In fiscal year 2010, 219 million after-school snacks were served to children through USDA's National School Lunch Program (NSLP), up from 139 million in 2003. Schools that participate in the NSLP can choose to offer nutritious snacks as part of after-school care programs that provide educational or enrichment activities. Over 90 percent of the 2010 snacks were served in schools with high percentages of low-income students. Snacks provided to students who qualify for free school meals receive a 76-cent subsidy for the 2011-12 school year, versus subsidies of 38 cents and 7 cents, respectively, for snacks provided to students qualifying for reduced-price and full-price school meals. Schools in which at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals are "area eligible" and receive the 76-cent subsidy for all participating students. This chart appeared in "Feeding Children After School: The Expanding Role of USDA Child Nutrition Programs" in the March 2012 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Participation in USDA's School Breakfast Program up in 2010

Friday, December 23, 2011

In fiscal year 2010, 11.6 million students participated in USDA's School Breakfast Program, up 5 percent from fiscal year 2009. The program subsidizes breakfasts in participating schools, which must offer nutritious meals to any student at full price, and for free or at reduced prices to income-eligible students. Participation trends in the School Breakfast Program over the last few years echo those of USDA's National School Lunch Program. The number of children receiving full price breakfasts has fallen, while the number of children getting free breakfasts has increased. Of the 1.9 billion breakfasts served in fiscal year 2010, 75 percent were free and another 9 percent were provided at a reduced price. This chart appearred on the Child Nutrition Programs: School Breakfast Program topic on the ERS website.

Growth in farm to school programs

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Farm to school programs have grown rapidly over the last decade. The National Farm to School Network, a collaboration of groups supporting farm to school programs, estimated that there were 2,051 farm to school programs in the United States in 2009; twice as many as in 2005-06. As of August 2009, they estimated that 41 States had some kind of farm to school program, and 8,943 schools in 2,065 districts participated. This chart was originally published in Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impact, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.

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