NFSMI Newsletter


Team Up for School Nutrition Success!

teamup-newsletterNFSMI, in conjunction with USDA, hosted 100+ attendees for the Team Up for School Nutrition Success pilot workshop for school nutrition professionals in the USDA Southeast region on November 12-13, 2014, at The Institute.  The workshop provided customized technical assistance by pairing participants with a mentor from a district of comparable size.  The workshop also provided sessions of best practices in key operation areas that included menu planning, plate waste, increasing participation, and financial management.  Prior to attending the workshop, participants utilized a pre-assessment tool to assess their current operation.  Additionally, NFSMI’s Applied Research Division trained the mentors on how to utilize a research-based coaching model that enabled participants to navigate through their specific areas of concern.  Team Up participants worked to develop personalized goals, strategies, and an action plan to take back to their districts.  NFSMI plans to provide a 3, 6, and 12 month follow-up evaluation of those participants who wish to participate. [Read More…]

New Tools Leading to Local Coexistence

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signs copies of “A Framework for Local Coexistence Discussions”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signs copies of, “A Framework for Local Coexistence Discussions,” an important report from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21).

American agriculture today is a complex web of producers, processors, and marketers all working to produce a safe and nutritious food supply and serve the needs and wants of consumers here in the U.S. and all across the world. As people have become more interested in what they eat and where their food comes from, the wide range of consumer preferences has led to a highly diversified marketplace.

Some consumers shop based solely on price, and others are drawn to the latest products they find in their grocery stores. Some try to buy locally produced food, and others seek out organic products. Because our farmers grow crops to meet all preferences, they often need to take special precautions, such as keeping their crops separated from their neighbor’s production, and ensuring their harvest is diverted into the correct product stream. This can be a challenge for those that share the land, machinery, or shipping equipment with their neighbors. They need to find a way to produce crops with the specifications their markets require, while also coexisting with nearby farms growing products for other markets.

Today I received “A Framework for Local Coexistence Discussions,” an important report from USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), which offers a framework for farmers and communities to convene discussions around farm management activities. The new framework established in this report extends beyond issues around GMO production to a wide range of topics that farmers can discuss with their neighbors. The report provides information and guides discussions to resolve local issues that may arise when neighboring farms produce different products. The report can also alert farmers of new production opportunities for particular markets that may come with specialized requirements.

The AC21 is USDA’s longstanding advisory committee that takes on big-picture issues around the long term implications of the use of biotechnology on agriculture and the work of USDA. I reconvened the committee and asked the members to focus on the challenges of farmers coexisting with one another to produce an increasingly broad range of products for consumers. Today’s report is the second one the committee has delivered to me on this subject and was endorsed by the majority of AC21 members.

Sections of the report can also be used as stand-alone documents, helping states and communities meet their coming production challenges. I strongly support their use, and USDA will begin distributing them to potential users and partners. The report also provides an update on some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for a rapidly diversifying and changing marketplace. These can drive changes in practices on farm and in food production chains.

I want to thank the AC21 Chair, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, AC21 members, and USDA staff for their commitment and perseverance in tackling a complex issue. This report demonstrates that respectful dialogue offers the best path forward when challenges arise.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and members of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) met to discuss the report, “A Framework for Local Coexistence Discussions” at the USDA.

USDA Child Nutrition Program to Dietetics Interns: We Need to Talk!

Dietetics interns using their nutrition science education

The USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announce new effort to bring dietetic interns to child nutrition.

The USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) are excited to announce a brand new effort to bring dietetic interns to child nutrition!

Dietetics students, you know who you are! You’re studying hard to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist so you can help Americans live healthier, happier lives. You have the most up-to-date education in nutrition science, a fresh perspective and lots of creative energy, and you’re looking to put it to work in an internship with maximum impact. The federal Child Nutrition Programs are where you need to be.

We serve infants, children and even seniors through meals served at schools, day care homes and centers, and community settings. In 2010, The Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act launched lots of major changes, including updates to the school meal programs. And this year, USDA rolled out the first improved nutrition standards for the Child and Adult Care Food Program since the program’s start in 1968. Our recipients will soon be enjoying meals bursting with more delicious fruits and vegetables and filled with more exciting variety than ever before! Reaching all the providers who serve USDA-funded meals with training on how to buy, prepare and serve more nutritious and appealing meals is a lot of work. And we need all hands on deck to help get the job done.

USDA and the Academy are making it easier than ever to find the Child Nutrition Program rotation that’s right for you. We’ve created a toolkit of resources to help state agencies get ready to host and to help you get ready for your rotation. Check them out at

By the way, dietetics leaders at the state and local agencies who administer Child Nutrition Programs, who have already hosted dietetics interns, know how valuable you are! But don’t just take my word for it:

We very much enjoy working with dietetic interns at the Iowa Department of Educations’ Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services. We take the opportunity to encourage their future work in Child Nutrition Programs. During their time with us, they may participate in an administrative review, assist with current projects, meet partners, and get a glimpse of what is involved in the administration of the Child Nutrition Programs at the state level. We try to tailor their experience to their specific area of interest. This is a great opportunity to form a relationship with interns who are interested in working in Child Nutrition Programs in the future. We learn a lot from each other! – Patti Delger, RDN, LD, Iowa Department of Education

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in serving as a preceptor site for public health nutrition graduate students completing their dietetic internship requirements. While MDE has been able to open students’ eyes to the possibilities for registered dietitians to work with USDA Child Nutrition Programs, the student interns have opened our eyes to the creativity, capacity and potential of our state’s up and coming nutrition leaders, often helping us to see our everyday opportunities and challenges from a new perspective. — Kara Mitterholzer, MPH, RD, Minnesota Department of Education

Work alongside our team and help bring up the next generation of healthy eaters!

Dietetics interns using their nutrition science education

The USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announce new effort to bring dietetic interns to child nutrition.

That’s a Wrap! Meet the 6 Families from the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series!

A compilation of MyPlate, MyWins families graphic

The MyPlate, MyWins video series shows how real families make healthy eating work for them. We finish off this series with a video highlighting all six families.

In March, we kicked off our MyPlate, MyWins video series and introduced you to six American families, each from different backgrounds with their own unique approach to healthy eating. From Shelley, a single mom to Carol and Brad, a farm family with four children – we hope you enjoyed hearing their stories and discovered healthy eating solutions that could help you in your own lives.

Meet the families from our MyPlate, MyWins video series in this compilation video:

Each family shared their healthy eating solutions. Here are some highlights:

  • Lilac & PJ: With the help of grandma, this family adjusts to life with a newborn, and celebrates their Laotian heritage through healthy eating traditions.
  • Bryan & Keah: This family uses dad’s passion for cooking to encourage healthy eating and trying new foods.
  • Shelley: This single mom admits that healthy eating hasn’t always come easy. But she knows it’s important and finds creative and fun ways to get her son to eat healthy.
  • Candice & James: With a baby on the way, this family knows that planning is key. They use technology and meal prep to make healthy eating easier, while staying organized.
  • Rocio: This mom includes her four young boys in meal prep to teach them about the importance of healthy eating.
  • Carol & Brad: For this family, it’s all about keeping it simple. They set out fruit for an easy ‘grab and go’ snack and make crockpot meals.

No matter where you start, it’s all about finding a healthy eating style that works for you, your family, and your everyday life. What works for you, may not work for someone else – and that’s ok! For practical tips, recipes, activities and more, visit, follow MyPlate on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email updates. And stay tuned… more MyPlate, MyWins videos are on their way!

Grants, Gardens and Green Beans: Charlottesville’s Growing Farm to School Program

Harvest of the Month Green Beans Poster

This green bean poster is part of the Harvest of the Month materials that City Schoolyard Garden developed for Charlottesville Public Schools.

In celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week, I recently visited Charlottesville Public Schools to learn about the district’s garden and Harvest of the Month efforts. Here’s a snapshot of what I observed that day.

We push a cart piled high with plates of green beans down the hallway stopping at each classroom. Noses press against the glass in the doors and teachers urge students to sit down, as the door cracks open to excited chatter. The green beans are passed off and we are on to the next classroom, getting to every class in just under 30 minutes. It’s only 9:30 in the morning on October 6 at Burnley-Moran Elementary School and the Harvest of the Month taste test is off to a great start!

Teachers accept the green bean delivery in the morning and work the tasting into their school day. The third grade teacher, Mr. Lorigan, allows me to sit in on his class as he takes a short break from their regular class to have students guess what he is holding above his head. Wiggling hands raise.

”Beets?” one student asks.

He gives them a hint, “These vegetables are long and have seeds.”

“Eggplant?” another child responds.

Mr. Lorigan says, “No, they are green!” Students shout out answers until one says “green beans!”

Each student receives a small plate of beans. Mr. Lorigan shares a few green bean facts and connects it to a recent science lesson, some students are apprehensive about the first taste and others dig in, eating all them in the blink of an eye. The more timid students are encouraged to take a tiny taste and everyone chats for a minute about what they like about the beans, many say, “the garlic is yummy!” The entire lesson, including cleanup, is done in 10 minutes – as I leave, Mr. Lorigan admits that he enjoys Harvest of the Month day as much as his students.

Yes, the green beans are local (and delicious!), but this week, so are many of the products in the cafeteria during Virginia Farm to School Week. Plates are piled with local apples, potatoes, greens and even local beef! All Charlottesville City Public Schools participate in Virginia Farm to School Week with support of local organizations and non-profits including – City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) and Local Food Hub. With support of a 2016 USDA Farm to School Grant, CSG was able to expand their Harvest of the Month programming to Charlottesville City High School (CHS) this school year.

We head over to CHS to visit with teacher and garden lead, Peter Davis, and meet with the new food service director, Mr. Carlton Jones, who has not only embraced this program, but has also seen an increase in participation, thanks to his efforts in the past six months.

With the support of CSG, the high school designed a teaching and tasting garden complete with shed and teaching space. Davis calls his program Garden to Market and on a daily basis leads special education 9-12 graders through gardening lessons to teach basic entrepreneurial skills. The classes have been selling their harvest, including vegetables and flowers, to teachers and hold a seedling sale in the spring. Mr. Davis also runs an after-school garden club that is primarily made up of ESL students, which also allows those students to practice language skills and earn community service hours.

CSG currently manages eight garden spaces at the district’s six elementary schools, Buford Middle School and Charlottesville High School – encompassing over 26,383 square feet of diverse organic gardens with over 25,505 student interactions each year. CSG is growing their vision that young people thrive with the opportunity to engage with nature, enhancing their academic learning through hands-on experience and cultivating skills for healthy living. CSG’s Harvest of the Month program connects the garden classroom to the cafeteria, linking students, teachers and food service.

Inspired by Charlottesville Public Schools? USDA is currently accepting applications for the Farm to School Grant Program, which assists eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. Consider applying for a grant to bring more local food into school meals, promote healthy eating habits and expand markets for American farmers and producers.

Elementary school students holding Swiss chard

Elementary school students proudly pick Swiss chard from the school garden.

A Reflection: Celebrating Eight Years of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Norah Deluhery eating lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese's Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site.

USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Norah Deluhery eats lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site.

Looking back at USDA’s efforts to help rural America thrive, I am truly proud of the impact our diverse partners, both from faith and secular communities, have had within their communities. On behalf of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I would like to say thank you to our partners these past eight years as well as reflect on a few notable highlights of the work we have achieved together.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day, whether they realize it or not. While our programs to reduce food insecurity are well known, our nation’s most vulnerable citizens can still be hard to reach. Faith-based and community partners have been especially helpful in this area, particularly when it comes to feeding children in summer months, when school is out of session. In collaboration with many partners, including Catholic Charities USA, the Church of God in Christ, Islamic Relief USA, the National Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army, USDA increased the number of summer meals served to kids by 16% between 2009 and 2015, a total of more than 1.2 billion summer meals served when school is out and food is scarce.

In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move! Faith and Communities (LMFC) to build the capacity of faith and community-based health leaders to educate their community members and promote healthier choices, increased physical activity, and access to healthy and affordable food. In 2011, Let’s Move! Faith and Communities partners hosted 1,100 new summer meal sites, where low-income kids were served healthy free meals once school let out. More than 4,500 faith and community leaders and organizations participated in the initiative which created a bridge to numerous other communities as these leaders represent a broad networks of local, regional and national organizations.

Faith-based and community partners have also helped USDA as we look to prepare a diverse next generation of agricultural leaders. The average American farmer is now approaching retirement age, and our food supply is becoming increasingly connected globally.

In our backyard, we’ve partnered with multiple schools to introduce exciting and rewarding opportunities in agriculture. At an agricultural science and business boot camp hosted at Frederick Douglass High School of Baltimore in 2016, students learned from a panel of agricultural scientists about related occupations and their career paths. In addition, through school partnerships, students are able to tour USDA headquarters, volunteer in the People’s Garden and interact with vendors in our Farmer’s Market as well as participate in cooking demonstrations and engage with USDA senior leadership on topics including food waste, entrepreneurship, college and internship opportunities.

Across the United States and Puerto Rico, USDA has hosted over 20 on-site application acceptance events, in partnership with the Office of Personnel Management. These events, held in conjunction with 1862, 1890, and 1994 land grant institutions, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority serving institutions, provided an opportunity for USDA hiring managers to collect applications for Pathway Intern and Recent Graduate positions on location and significantly contributed to the department’s legacy of cultural transformation. In 2015 alone, over 360 positions were filled or offers made through this method.

To further develop the next generation of agricultural leaders internationally, USDA has joined other governmental offices, American NGOs and private companies to provide leadership development, professional training, cultural exchange and networking opportunities to Mandela Washington Fellows of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The USDA Center coordinated the placements of three Fellows from Senegal, Nigeria, and Uganda, a first for the Department.

Our partners have also acknowledged the rich religious diversity of the United States by supporting USDA as it recognizes various holidays related to food and agriculture found in multiple faiths. During each year of the Obama Administration, the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has recognized the essential and important role of the religious community in the United States by hosting celebrations for employees and their families that are often led by members of the community including annual iftars, prayer breakfasts, Seders and festivals such as Diwali and Sukkot.

This reflection highlights just a handful of the work we’ve done with partners across the United States these past years. As Director of this Center, it has been an honor to work with such inspiring individuals and organizations under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack and President Obama. We don’t work alone, and again, I want to thank all of our partners for all of their hard work over the past eight years to provide a better future for the American public.