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Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Senate Progress to Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs

Interesting to read Secretary Tom Vilsack’s staement on the move to reauthorize critical child nutrition programs. Just last week Learning ZoneXpress unveiled new dietary guidline support materials: 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines Poster2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines 11″ x 17″ Poster Set and 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines Handouts.)
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines Poster

Statement from Secretary Tom Vilsack on Senate Progress to Reauthorize Child Nutrition ProgramsWASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2016 – In anticipation of legislation this week from the Senate to reauthorize child nutrition programs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack provides the following statement:

We are pleased the Senate is making bipartisan progress to reauthorize critical child nutrition programs. The Senate’s bill is a win for children, parents, schools and for our country’s future. It maintains our commitment to science-based nutrition standards for school meals and protects the advancements we have made in children’s health since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Rather than diminish the progress made since the changes were implemented in 2012, the Senate’s bill ensures progress will continue improving our children’s diets, and it promises to end partisan battles about the future of our kids.

The bill is consistent with the approach taken at USDA all along, which is to provide reasonable flexibility for schools as they continue transitioning to the updated standards — an approach that is working. A 2014 Harvard study shows that in some schools, under the updated standards, kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at lunch. A 2015 study by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that kids ate nearly 20 percent more of their vegetables in the schools they examined after the standards were updated. And a study of schools in Washington State just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that the nutritional quality of meals chosen by students has improved since HHFKA was implemented, while program participation did not change. Multiple surveys have documented how the majority of parents and students like the new meals, and—most important—new evidence suggests after decades of a growing obesity epidemic that harmed the health and future of our children and cost our country billions, we are starting to see progress in preventing this disease. The bill sustains and supports this progress.

We applaud the Senate’s bipartisan progress and urge Congress to reauthorize these programs for our young people without delay.

Eating the MyPlate Way…On a Budget!

Think it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget?…Think again! Tasty, affordable foods are within reach for your family. With a few tips and tricks you can make eating the Myplate way on a budget happen.


Here’s How:

  • Buy seasonal! Fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown in your area are easier to get and less expensive.
  • Try your local farmer’s market!
  • Visit the freezer aisle! Did you know frozen vegetables and fruits are just as nutritious and usually cheaper than fresh?
  • Buy in bulk! It’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk. Smart choices include family packs of chicken, steak or fish and larger bags of potatoes or frozen vegetables.
  • Buy it whole! Pre-washed and cut fruit and vegetables may be more convenient but it is often more expensive too.
  • Go generic! Don’t be fooled by the more attractive brand-name products. Generic food will always be more attractive to your wallet.

More Low-Cost MyPlate Tips:

  • Plan ahead! Before going to the grocery store, plan your meals. Try to include meals that will “stretch” into more portions like stews, casseroles or a stir-fry.
  • Cut coupons! Check online, in the newspaper and at the store for sales and coupons. Watch for specials.
  • Compare! Find the “unit price” on the shelf and use it to compare different brands and sizes to find the most affordable option.
  • Prepare large batches of your favorite recipes and freeze them in individual containers and use them throughout the week instead of ordering take-out meals.
  • “Planned-Overs”! Plan for extra “leftovers” and save some cash. Use your leftovers in creative ways like toppings for omelets, baked potatoes or pasta.

Remember….Get your calcium. Focus on fruits. Vary your veggies. Make at least half your grains whole. Go lean with protein. And don’t forget to make physical activity a part of your plan.

Visit Learning ZoneXpress for MyPlate nutrition education resources.

Celebrate Whole Grains Month!

September is Whole Grains Month and a great time to reinforce the message of the USDA MyPlate and promote healthy choices by making at least 1/2 your grains whole grains!


What are whole grains?

Whole grains are full of health-promoting nutrients and complex carbohydrates.  They contain all parts of the grain, which helps keep your heart healthy and gives you long-lasting energy.

How can you determine if a food is whole grain? 

Look for the word “whole” in the FIRST ingredient listed, such as “100% whole-grain” or “whole wheat”.  An easy way to look for whole grain foods is to look for the Whole Grain stamp from the Whole Grains Council.


Whole Grains Council Stamp


Some popular whole grains include:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Whole-wheat bread, cereals, crackers, pasta

It’s easy to make 1/2 your grains whole grains with so many delicious options!  Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Learning ZoneXpress!  Visit our website to see all of our Whole Grain nutrition education products.




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Stirring up MyPLate to a melting pot of flavors and cultures

international-and-cultural-food-kitRecently Dr. Katie Wilson, Deputy Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services wrote a blog post for the USDA on MyPLate meals with cultural flavor…

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Recently, I learned of several examples of this while participating in one of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success workshops that USDA provides to assist school food authorities. The goal of this training is to help schools find simple ways to meet the updated meal standards while increasing the number of children enjoying healthy and flavorful school meals. It’s no secret that children and adolescents can be finicky eaters, but there are creative ways school nutrition professionals can prepare meals to be tastier and more appealing for this tough audience.

For instance, I learned that in Puerto Rico it is common for children to eat arroz con habichuelas y carne de cerdo (rice and beans with pork). Schools are finding ways to prepare this same meal in a healthy way that satisfies the palates of children who are used to eating it at home.

We applaud the push to keep healthy and embrace the natural diversity of our country. We can all appreciate a little spice to our lives and our lunches!