Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Many neighbors are suffering in these hard times.  In fact, we are expecting to help thousands of people this fall.  Thanksgiving and the cooler weather will bring thousands of hungry seniors, men, women and children to the doors of the member agencies that rely on us!

Thank you Mayor Dale Adams, City of Grand Rapids MN for your commitment to ENDING HUNGER in our community!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jim Sommers named First Runner-Up Outstanding Senior Volunteer at the Minnesota State Fair

Itasca County has had quite a showing among the Minnesota State Fair Outstanding Senior Volunteer awards, and this year was no exception when Jim Sommers of rural Cohasset was named 2015 First Runner-Up at the State Fair on September 3, 2015.  Sommers joins a group of other Itasca County volunteers also recognized at the state level, including Outstanding Seniors Lloyd Adams from Wabana in 2013 and Joan Oja from Pengilly in 2011, and First Runner-Up Lorraine Linser from Grand Rapids in 2008. 

Jim Sommers, 2015 MN State Fair Outstanding Senior First Runner-Up

Out of a pool of nominees from each county in the state, two winners and two runners-up are honored at an awards ceremony and open house as they are recognized at the state level for their time and talent to benefit their community since the age of 65.  

            Judges look for diversity of accomplishments, length of service and commitment to serving others and their community.  Sommers volunteers primarily as a driver for older adults who are unable to transport themselves to/from medical appointments. When asked what is rewarding about his volunteer work, Jim replied, “I like to drive, and l enjoy meeting new people. Some of the rides are fairly long, and we get to know each other pretty well. The folks I drive are so grateful for this service, and it makes me feel good to be able to help them.”  Over the years, Jim has logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours, and likely tens-of-thousands of miles serving Arrowhead Transit, Rapid Transit, Senior Wheels and ElderCircle Adult Day Stay.  As quoted in a letter of recommendation, “Jim’s warm and compassionate personality immediately puts his passengers at ease.  He is a great conversationalist, can always find something in common with clients, and his sense of humor is a delight to be around.” 

Itasca County Outstanding Senior Lola Seekman, 2015 MN State Fair Outstanding Senior First Runner-Up Jim Sommers and MN State Fair Board Member Ron Oleheiser

Thursday, September 10, 2015

USDA Awards $8 Million to Support Healthier Foods in Schools

USDA Awards $8 Million to Support Healthier Foods in Schools and Child Care Centers

Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623


WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2015 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be awarding over $8 million in grants to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals for their students. Approximately $2.6 million dollars in grants will support implementation of new national professional standards for all school nutrition employees who manage and operate the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and $5.6 million will go to help states expand and enhance food service training programs and provide nutrition education in school, child care, and summer meal settings.

"For the past three years, kids have eaten healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school thanks to the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which made the first meaningful improvements to the nutrition of foods and beverages served in cafeterias and sold in vending machines in 30 years. Nearly all schools are successfully meeting the standards, and these grants part of our ongoing commitment to give states and schools the additional resources they need," said Vilsack. "Parents, teachers, principals, and school nutrition professionals want the best for their children. Together we can make sure we're giving our kids the healthy start in life they deserve."

The grants announced today add to the large number of resources that USDA provides to help schools serve healthier food options that meet updated nutrition standards, including technical assistance, educational materials, and additional reimbursements. More than 95 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting those nutrition standards, which were based on recommendations from pediatricians and other child health experts at the Institute of Medicine.

In February, USDA announced national professional standards for school nutrition employees that went into effect on July 1, 2015. These standards, which vary according to position and job requirements, ensure that school nutrition professionals have the training and skills they need to plan, prepare, purchase, and promote healthy meals. In addition to several built-in flexibilities intended to facilitate the first year of implementation and address the challenges faced by smaller school districts, USDA is providing a total of $2.6 million to 19 state agencies to develop and enhance existing trainings within their state that will allow school nutrition professionals to meet these standards. The Professional Standards Training Grants promote training in nutrition; operations; administration; and communications and marketing.

In addition, 19 states received a 2015 Team Nutrition Training Grant of up to $350,000 – $5.6 million in total – to support trainings that focus on encouraging healthy eating. Those efforts could include:

  • using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies that use principles from behavioral economics to encourage healthy choices,
  • meeting meal pattern requirements for school meals,
  • delivering interactive nutrition education activities, and
  • providing schools and child care providers with technical assistance to create and maintain a healthier environment.

Grants activities must be sustainable and achieve measurable outcomes. For example, the Oregon Department of Education will use the grant funds to hold 10 Smarter Lunchroom workshops on strategies for arranging the lunchroom that promote healthy choices. As a result, at least 120 school food authorities and child nutrition program sponsors will receive training and follow-up assistance. A summary of previous years' grant activities by state can be found at the Team Nutrition Training Grants website.

The Team Nutrition Training Grants are awarded as part of USDA's Team Nutrition initiative, which provides resources, training, and nutrition education lessons for schools and child care providers. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Team Nutrition initiative. In that time, Team Nutrition has provided nearly $90 million in grant funds to state agencies that implement USDA Child Nutrition Programs.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers America's nutrition assistance programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs make up the federal nutrition safety net.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).