(NAFB)--A new school year is here or nearly here for students across the country and USDA is highlighting a number of department efforts to promote a healthy and productive learning environment. USDA programs not only impact students across the country - but support the Obama Administration’s efforts to improve rural education opportunities, help students grow up healthy and strong and maintain American competitiveness in the coming years. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA is committed to the future of all youngsters heading back to school and is taking new steps to expand rural education opportunities, ensure healthy and safe food for young people and give parents and teachers the tools and information they need to help our kids grow up ready to lead the world.
As part of USDA efforts to promote healthy eating - the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has launched the MyPlate Kids Place - which is designed for children ages eight to 12. It includes games, activity sheets, recipes and tips - in addition to links to the ChooseMyPlate dot gov website. The department has also launched the MyPlate on Campus partnership to recruit college-age students to become campus MyPlate ambassadors to encourage healthy eating and more physical activity. Efforts to promote healthy improvements to school meals through implementation of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 continue as well. The first phase of the updated School Breakfast Program is being implemented this year. These updates will provide students with more whole grains, milk with a lower fat content and right-sized meals appropriate for the calorie needs of students of different ages - all while ensuring that school officials have the menu flexibility they need.
Inside the classroom - USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and the American Statistical Association are preparing to present a new Census at School Food Preference Survey lesson plan and activities for students in grades five through eight. The new curriculum teaches statistical and agricultural literacy to kids through common core standards in math, language arts, nutrition, social studies and family consumer sciences.
Finally - USDA announced Monday that more than 28-million dollars in USDA Community Facilities loan and grant funds are being allocated to improve the quality of rural schools and libraries across the nation.