Harvesting Healthy Habits During National Nutrition Month


    Harvesting collard greens and making whole wheat crackers from scratch is not a typical day on the job for me as the Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. But I can assure you it is the perfect recipe for a great day at work! Earlier this month, I had the chance to spend the morning at Watkins Elementary School in Washington, D.C. with Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There, we joined some incredible 5th grade students during their FoodPrints class and witnessed first-hand the transformational power of nutrition education. And best of all—it was delicious!

    Federal nutrition programs do more than give kids food to eat. They teach children about the importance of nutrition and help them develop healthy habits. The Food and Nutrition Service works with an amazing array of partners to help build a brighter, healthier future for America’s children. One such partner, FRESHFARM, hosted our visit to Watkins in honor of National Nutrition Month. FRESHFARM’s FoodPrints curriculum integrates gardening, cooking, and nutrition education through a model of partnerships, standards-based lessons, cafeteria connections, and food access.

    Admiral Levine and I were delighted to be part of the hands-on lesson that day. We started the morning out in the school garden to harvest the collard greens and later learned about their nutritional value as we prepped the greens for cooking. The result—a yummy dish of fresh greens with ginger and caramelized onions! As if that weren’t enough, we also learned about whole grains and had the chance to grind up wheat berries with a hand-turned grinder to make our own flour! We might have cheated just a little bit by using pre-milled flour to then make delicious, yet surprisingly simple, whole-wheat crackers which provided a nice crunch to accompany our greens. I also made the crackers at home that weekend and got rave reviews from my family!

    Our morning at Watkins was just a little peek into the important work that FRESHFARM and other SNAP-Ed providers do every day. We all have a vital role to play in improving child health and nutrition. The most effective way to impact change is to set children up to thrive early in life. The skills and knowledge that the students receive through programs like these puts them on the path towards lifelong health and well-being.