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Food and Nutrition Service marks 40 years

The same year astronauts set foot on the moon, USDA launched its own massive project to benefit the American people — the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Read more »

Vilsack meets with FFA leaders

Secretary Vilsack spoke this morning at the Future Farmers of America State Presidents’ meeting. He had the opportunity to meet with FFA’s national and state leaders, and took a few minutes to congratulate them on their election to leadership posts in an organization of more than 500,000 active members. Read more »

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service offers food safety tips for hurricane season

As the peak of the 2009 hurricane season approaches, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is providing recommendations to minimize the chance of foodborne illnesses due to power outages and other problems caused by severe weather.

“In the hours after a tropical storm or hurricane, food safety can become a critical public health issue,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold Mande. “With a little bit of planning and some common sense decision-making, people can make sure they have access to safe food and water even in the aftermath of severe storms.”

So how can you keep food safe when a storm knocks out the power? Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer, for starters. If you live in an area that often encounters severe weather, make sure you have coolers on hand and know where you can get dry and block ice.

Once the storm passes, it may take a while for power to be restored so resist temptation and keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible so the cold air does not escape. If the refrigerator door stays closed, the food inside can last safely for up to four hours. If the food still has ice crystals or is 40°F or colder when checked with a thermometer, it is safe to refreeze. Never taste it to determine its safety! A useful tip: Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.

Flood waters often come with tropical storms and hurricanes. Unfortunately they bring the always present bacteria. Throw out food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it has come into contact with flood water as well as other wooden or plastic kitchen equipment and utensils – don’t forget to throw out baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. You can wash other metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by soaking them for 15 minutes in a mixture of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water. You may be able to save undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches by following our easy to follow tips.

Whether you have food in the refrigerator, freezor or cooler, including packaged goods and water, it is always better to be safe than sorry, so when in doubt, throw it out! FSIS has more tips to keep your food safe before, during and after a storm. Visit the FSIS fact sheet for all of the details and remember to Ask Karen , our virtual representative is available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Check out our information on food safety during a power outage and hurricane preparedness and share the public service announcement, Podcasts in English and Spanish as well as the American Sign Language videocasts.

Read Secertary Vilsack’s People’s Garden message

Secretary Vilsack prepared a message this month describing the purpose and mission of the Peoples’ Garden at USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Here’s the first part of the message. Check it out, and be sure to visit the Peoples’ Garden web page and Twitter feed.

From: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Re: The Peoples’ Garden
July 2009

What was the idea behind the people’s garden? Well, we wanted to take an opportunity to showcase what we do at USDA, and to encourage folks to consider local production and local consumption. We felt that this was an opportunity to provide an example to the rest of the country.

There are a lot of people who walk this mall from all over the country, and we thought if we had a statement garden that we would begin to get peoples attention about this, but we wanted to also encourage other USDA offices to follow suit. And we felt that if we could create these people’s gardens then it would allow us to better connect people with where their food comes from. Allow young people in particular to understand how hard it is to produce food and how much fun it is to produce food. And we believed that as these local production opportunities were created young people in particular would not only learn the lessons of hard work, but more importantly would be encouraged to be more nutritious eaters. So there are lots of reasons for the people’s garden, and we’re encouraged by the response…

Read the rest of the Secretary’s Peoples’ Garden message here, or visit the Peoples’ Garden web page to learn more and see what’s happening in the garden.

St. John’s Parish hosts four Obama Cabinet members on Rural Tour

As you may have seen, it’s been a busy week on the Rural Tour. Secretary Vilsack visited Wisconsin last Thursday, Virginia on Saturday, and yesterday met with three other members of the Obama cabinet in St. John’s Parish, Louisiana to discuss a broad range of issues facing rural America. Read more »

Deputy Secretary Merrigan tours Cleveland Food Bank discusses United We Serve

When President Obama announced United We Serve, a summer service initiative to encourage all Americans to reach out in service to their neighbors and communities, he was very clear that the government acting alone can’t pull America through these hard economic times. Read more »