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Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Amqui Elementary School in Madison, TN

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Amqui Elementary School in Madison, TN yesterday as part of the Obama Administration’s ‘My Education, My Future’ events. Read more » ‘One-stop-shop’ Web site for food safety information

We’re happy to announce today the re-launch of the website, a single place to find food safety information from across the government. Think of it as a kind of “one-stop-shop” offering everything you need to stay food-safe and healthy. The site, operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, includes information from the Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety and Inspection Service, National Institutes of Health and other government agencies and offices.

Among the things you can do on the new website:

· See all food product recalls and alerts from all government agencies in one place (You can even grab a constantly updating alerts “widget” to put on any blog, website or personalized web “start” page.)

· Report a food problem,

· Ask questions of food safety experts,

· Get tips to help you make safe and healthy decisions at home, in the market, at school and in the workplace,

· Find expert information on preventing, recognizing and treating food-borne illnesses,

· Learn about the food inspection process · Find links to your state and local public health agencies,

· View videos, listen to podcasts, subscribe to e-mail alerts and RSS feeds, follow Twitter and use other multimedia to keep current on food safety topics, or

· Download educational materials for schools, community groups and public health agencies.

The new site is an outgrowth of the Food Safety Working Group, an effort announced by President Barack Obama on March 14, 2009, designed to establish programs and procedures to ensure a safe food supply for the American people. One recommendation produced by the inter-agency group is to use new technologies, including and emerging social media, to communicate critical food safety information to the public.

From the beginning, the process has included input from many interested parties. That outreach continues today. Have comments or suggestions about the new Web site? Leave comments here on this blog.

The Future of Community Gardens in DC and Beyond

The last week of August was proclaimed Community Gardening Week by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and the new People’s Garden project outside the USDA headquarters fronting on the National Mall was a perfect place to discuss community garden in the greater DC-area and take a long at its future. On September 4, I joined a local farmer and USDA staff to talk about growing tomatoes, maximizing your harvest, and community gardening. Read more »

Fighting for Family Farmers at Farm Aid 2009

Family farmers from throughout the country descended into St. Louis over the weekend for the 24th annual Farm Aid Conference. Stars including Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Mathews were on hand to shine a spotlight on the struggles that small- and mid-sized farmers face. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack and Interfaith Leaders Participate in a Service Event in Rural Ohio

On Monday, Secretary Vilsack was in Zanesville, Ohio for a Rural Tour town hall focusing on green jobs and a new energy economy. After the forum, the Secretary visited Maple Terrace, a public housing facility for low-income senior citizens. He led an interfaith service event highlighting President Obama’s United We Serve volunteerism initiative. Secretary Vilsack joined local Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders to distribute energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) to Maple Terrace residents.
Secretary Vilsack hands out lightbulbs at a event in Ohio
Secretary Vilsack reiterated President Obama’s call to service and talked about the importance of people of all faiths and backgrounds working together to solve our country’s greatest challenges. He also discussed the role of energy efficiency in the long-term sustainability of the American economy, including provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that promote green job creation. In addition, pointed out that many of the seniors at Maple Terrace receive a box of groceries each month from USDA through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

The event was co-organized by Eastside Community Ministry, a local ecumenical organization that offers an emergency food pantry, an after-school program, a clothing bank, and an emergency relief program; and Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, a non-profit group devoted to empowering a religious response to climate change and promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Secretary Vilsack with Interfaith LeadersOhio families supplied the light bulbs for the event as a way to offset their carbon footprints. As compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, many low-income seniors would not ordinarily be able to afford the up-front cost of purchasing them. However, each bulb saves approximately $59 over its 5-8 year lifetime, so the long-term benefits of CFLs are remarkable. By purchasing CFLs for these seniors, donating families were able to both help people of limited income to save on their energy bills and offset their own environmental impact.

Monday’s event also served as a perfect kickoff to United We Serve’s focus this week on interfaith service. Eastside Community Ministry was the site of a July 1, 2008 campaign speech by then Senator Obama on the importance of faith-based and community organizations:

“You see, while these groups are often made up of folks who’ve come together around a common faith, they’re usually working to help people of all faiths or of no faith at all. And they’re particularly well-placed to offer help. As I’ve said many times, I believe that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. That’s why Washington needs to draw on them. The fact is, the challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck. I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Rev. Bob Davidson, Executive Director of Eastside Community Ministry, said: “The event was very informative. The residents of Maple Terrace deeply appreciated the savings they will receive as a result of using their new light bulbs.” Dr. Greg Hitzhusen, Executive Director of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, added that “the event catalyzed a lot of excellent community involvement. Residents were thrilled to be able to meet Secretary Vilsack.”

Overall, this event was a great opportunity to highlight interfaith service and cooperation. It also allowed Secretary Vilsack to showcase the important role that energy efficiency can play in our economic recovery and the health of our planet.

“$60,000 is Big Savings for a Small Town”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today met with local officials and community residents in Louisa, Va., and highlighted a Recovery Act project that was announced on the 100th day of the Recovery Act. As a result of a $3.3 loan through USDA Rural Development, the community of Louisa will expand their current wastewater treatment plant’s processing capabilities and improve local water quality. Read more »