Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off an exciting National Nutrition Month by marking the start of National School Breakfast Week (March 4-8), a time that highlights the importance of promoting healthy choices for our nation's children throughout the school day.
"Making sure that children get the best start to their day is part of our commitment to providing all of our children access to safe, nutritious, and well-balanced meals," said Secretary Vilsack. "Eating breakfast helps maintain a healthy weight and gives our youngest generation the greatest chance at success."
Every year, USDA partners with the School Nutrition Association to celebrate National School Breakfast Week. This year's theme is "Be a Star with School Breakfast," highlighting how eating a balanced breakfast at school can help students to shine. The USDA's School Breakfast Program provides a nutritious start to each school day for nearly 13 million children in over 91,000 schools and residential child care institutions. It offers school children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest nutrition science and dietary guidelines.
"Research shows that children learn better after a healthy breakfast," said Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.
"Through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, we have an historic opportunity, which schools are embracing throughout the country, to make the healthy choice also the easy choice for children at school, from morning to afternoon."
Updated breakfast meal patterns, part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, begin to take effect in the coming school year, and will be phased in over three years. The new meal patterns support the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and are based on scientific recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.
"National Nutrition Month is a timely reminder to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy at breakfast and at every meal, each day," Concannon said.
This week, USDA will also participate in the inaugural celebration of International School Meals Day(ISMD) on March 8, 2013. The concept for ISMD emerged from a recent collaboration between USDA and our counterparts in the United Kingdom, during which we engaged in an exchange of ideas, implementation strategies, and best practices in the area of food and nutrition policy. ISMD represents an opportunity to continue that beneficial exchange of policies, practices, and research, while raising awareness of the important role that nutrition education plays in child development. ISMD will also engage children around the world in classroom-level discussions of healthy eating habits in school and at home.
Schools selected to take part in this year's activities will focus on topics related to the school nutrition environment, such as the menu choices available in the cafeteria, classroom instruction on nutrition education, or growing and/or cooking food at school. Students will then discuss these topics with students in the U.K. via the Internet or by phone. Initially, 14 classrooms (grades 3-8) in the U.S. are now connected with 14 classrooms in Scotland. USDA plans to expand the initiative to include partnerships with additional countries in future years.
The 14 participating U.S. schools are:
Nathanael Greene Elementary School, Chicago, Ill.
JB Lancaster Elementary School, Madisonville, La.
Rolling Terrace Elementary School, Montgomery, Md.
Harmony Hills Elementary School, Silver Spring, Md.
Oak Grove Upper Elementary School, Hattiesburg, Miss.
Hampton Bays Middle School, Hampton Bays, N.Y.
Cartoogechaye Elementary School, Franklin, N.C.
Sterling Elementary School, Pineville, N.C.
AB Combs Elementary School, Wake County, N.C.
Washington Elementary School, Mt Lebanon, Pa.
Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Pittsburg, Pa.
M.B. Henderson Elementary School, Dallas, Texas
Holmes Middle School, Alexandria, Va.
Parklawn Elementary School, Alexandria, Va.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Learn more by visiting www.fns.usda.gov.