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USDA Invests Millions to Promote Family Nutrition and Encourage Children to Make Healthy Food Choices

President Obama and Secretary Vilsack have made providing our children with healthier, more nutritious meals a top priority. Good nutrition is not only vital to the long-term health of children; it is an integral part of improving academic performance, and ensuring that future generations will be competitive in a global economy.

That is why Secretary Vilsack is committed to the President’s goal of investing $10 billion over 10 years to improve the Child Nutrition Programs to improve access, and to enhance the quality of the meals and the health of the whole school environment.  It is why USDA is working to implement the Institute of Medicine’s suggestions to upgrade school meal requirements to enhance nutritional value.  And we are also working to eliminate barriers that keep eligible families from enrolling in our nutrition programs.

Secretary Vilsack also joined Michelle Obama at the White House to re-launch the HealthierUS School Challenge, expanding it to include middle school and high school students. The Challenge will motivate schools to serve healthier meals, conduct nutrition education and promote physical activity. To further promote the importance of staying active, the USDA signed a partnership with the NFL and the National Dairy Council to support the “Fuel Up and Play 60” campaign.

The Agriculture Marketing Service and Food Nutrition Service also worked together to provide fresh-cut apple products via the National School Lunch Program. Five states, including California and New York, have already ordered millions of pounds of apples. By December 2010, school districts in 10 states will be serving fresh-cut apples. The success of the program has allowed AMS to expand their fresh-cut offers to include carrots.

USDA’s nutrition assistance programs touch 1 in 5 Americans each year.  Currently more than 37 million Americans receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help them purchase nutritious food, which also helps stimulate the economy by supporting grocery stores, truck drivers, and American farmers.  In fact, every $1 spent on SNAP benefits generates over $1.84 in economic activity.

More than 13 million people eligible for SNAP benefits don’t participate. Even a small increase in the number of Americans participating in the Program will generate billions of dollars in economic activity while providing children with safe, nutritious food. If you or someone you know may be eligible for SNAP, ask them to apply online on the SNAP Application website.

In 2009, USDA made tremendous headway in providing families, children, and schools the choice to eat healthier. In the coming months and years, we look forward to continuing to help Americans lead healthy, prosperous lives.

Dozens Turn Out to Share Ideas on Stimulating the Economy and Creating Jobs in Kentucky

Despite unexpected snowfall and cold temperatures, more than 50 people participated in a forum on jobs creation in Kentucky on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday. Read more »

USDA Led Forum Works to Create a Blueprint for Job Creation in Wisconsin

Nearly 80 people gathered at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wis. to participate in the Forum for the Future . . . Pathways to Wisconsin Job Creation event.

The job forum, co-hosted by USDA Rural Development, Chippewa Valley Technical College and USDA Farm Service Agency, primarily focused on generating ideas and creating a blueprint to help initiate job growth in Wisconsin.

Panelists and attendees, together, explored ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses; creating jobs by rebuilding  and improving infrastructure; supporting job growth among small businesses; preparing workers for today’s job market; and the sustainability of Wisconsin jobs, specifically in the energy sector.

“USDA Rural Development is committed to facilitating sustainable job growth in Wisconsin with partners like Chippewa Valley Technical College; and with all the wonderful ideas produced by this forum, I believe we’re off to a good start,” said Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development State Director.  “The Federal Government is working diligently to create jobs and having input from community leaders is vital to the proceeding steps we take.”

Panelists at the Wisconsin job forum Include:

Stan Gruszynski, State Director, USDA Rural Development as the Moderator; Bruce Barker, President, Chippewa Valley Technical College; Brad Pfaff, State Director, Farm Service Agency; Steve Blodgett, District Director, WI Department of Workforce Development; Tom Lyon, Senior Policy Advisor, WI Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection; Greg Nycz, Executive Director, Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc.; Mary Patoka, Executive Director, CAP Services; John Rosenow, Wisconsin Dairyman and Small Business Owner; Scott Schultz, Executive Director, Wisconsin Farmers Union; Mike Stifter, Director of Facilities, UW River Falls Sustainability Institute; and Rick Terrien, Executive Director, Iowa County Economic Development Corporation.

Attendees of the job forum, from feedback gathered almost unanimously, agreed that the event was informational and will ultimately help to generate a focus on future job creation for the state of Wisconsin. Numerous positive comments, ideas, and suggestions were received.

Critical elements for Wisconsin’s rural economy and job market, according to the attendees are; next generation interest and retention in rural areas and in agriculture, taking advantage of new technologies, better paying jobs, increased education and training, and knowledge of financial resources offered by local, state and federal agencies.  Additional concerns include access to needed healthcare and the availability of credit lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The recommendations and information from the forum will be compiled into a formal report and submitted to the White House; as well as sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Wisconsin Congressional and Senatorial Representatives, and attendees.

Job forum Wisonsin

Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development State Director, addresses the attendees at the job forum held at Chippewa Valley Technical College Gateway Campus in Eau Claire Tuesday.

Job forum Wisconsin

Tom Lyon, left, Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, speaks with Bruce Barker and Diane Pavelski of Chippewa Valley Technical College before the job forum started Tuesday morning.

Submitted by: Kelly Edwards, Wisconsin Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development

To view a recording of the Eau Claire jobs forum go to:

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth