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Deputy Under Secretary Thornton Travels to LA High School to Discuss School Nutrition

Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

As Deputy Under Secretary, having the opportunity to visit schools all over the country is one of the best parts of my job.  I have mostly been to elementary schools, where school meal participation is generally higher than middle or high schools.  Last week, however, I had the chance to visit Garfield High School of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the country.  More than 75% of Garfield High’s students participate in the National School Lunch Program; I witnessed more than 3,100 students get served in 40 minutes—talk about efficient!  The Home-Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grain Roll was a hit.

Dennis Barrett, Director of Food Services, has done an outstanding job improving the program since he first started in 2007, with the food getting good reviews from students who like the variety of choices and find the food “nutritious and tasty.”  For example, students can choose among Sweet Potato Sticks, Café LA Tossed Side Salad, Chilled Peaches, and Chilled Orange Juice as well as non-fat, low-fat, lactose-free, and flavored milk.  Given its high participation level, the high school might apply for the Gold or Gold of Distinction award in the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge, which encourages healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

I spoke with students and officials about the President’s priorities for improving school meals.  I also emphasized the importance of renewing the Child Nutrition Act and advocated for a strong reauthorization bill to reduce hunger, combat obesity, and improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children.  One of the students suggested a Grab N Go lunch because some of the students do not have enough time to eat since some of them need to go to the library or do homework.  That was a great suggestion.  Little did the student know, I just visited Bravo Medical Magnet School of the same school district and it had a Grab N Go lunch.  The school district will work with the school to see if this program can work at Garfield High, too.

On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.
On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.

On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School.
On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School. 

On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.
On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.

New USDA Funded Emergency Services Facility Dedicated In West Virginia

By  West Virginia USDA Rural Development Public Affairs Specialist Gail Bennett

A building dedication was held for the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency’s (JCESA) Operations Center earlier this month in Ranson, WV.  On hand and a featured guest speaker for the formal ceremony was USDA Rural Development’s Housing and Community Facilities Administrator Tammye Trevino. 

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito gave congratulatory remarks as another featured guest speaker.  An emergency occurred during her speech and the operations center was in full alert with ambulances and emergency personnel in action. 

Other distinguished guests included West Virginia USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis; Honorable Patsy Noland , Jefferson County Commission Vice-President;  Members of the JCESA Board of Directors; JCESA Building Committee members; JCESA Administrative Staff; Mayor Peggy Smith and Julie Quirk of the USDA Rural Development Office of General Counsel (OGC) and her administrative assistant Pat Foote.

The JCESA Operations Center was funded, in part, with a $1.3 Million Community Facilities Direct Loan.  The land for the facility was donated by Fairfax Crossing, LLC, and the City of Ranson.  Office equipment and furnishings were donated by local groups.  

The new 6,700 square foot state-of-the-art center contains administrative offices, a conference room, a training room, crew quarters and three bays. The facility replaces JCESA’s former home – a cramped, converted service station.

Tammye Trevino, Rural Development Housing Administrator, addresses the audience at the dedication.
Tammye Trevino, Rural Development Housing Administrator, addresses the audience at the dedication.

Row 1 (l to r):  Paula Moeller (WV RD Community Facilities Specialist); Pat Foote (OGC); Kathy McEntee (RD Housing & Community Facilities Chief of Staff); Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito; Tammye Trevino (RD Housing and Community Facilities Administrator); and Anna-Marie Lantz (RD Area Specialist)
Row 1 (l to r):  Paula Moeller (WV RD Community Facilities Specialist); Pat Foote (OGC); Kathy McEntee (RD Housing & Community Facilities Chief of Staff); Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito; Tammye Trevino (RD Housing and Community Facilities Administrator); and Anna-Marie Lantz (RD Area Specialist)
Row 2 (l to r):  Bobby Lewis (WV RD State Director); Gail Bennett (RD Public Affairs Specialist); Howard Page (RD Area Specialist and Civil Rights Coordinator); Julie Quirk (OGC); and Craig Burns (RD Area Director).   

USDA Recovery Act Funding Will Improve Health Care for the Residents of Jasper County, Indiana

USDA-Rural Development is improving the lives of the residents of Jasper County, Indiana by presenting a $15 million Community Facilities low interest loan to the Jasper County Hospital.  The funds will be used to provide new surgery and outpatient services. Read more »

USDA Recovery Act Funding Improves Water Quality in a Nebraska Community

USDA Rural Development Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, staff and the residents of  Stromsburg celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day recently with the announcement of more than $2.2 million in planned improvements to the City’s municipal water system.  The improvements will bring the system, serving more than 500 users, into compliance with new Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.  Special recognition was given to those who were instrumental to the project as they each signed a segment of water pipe. Read more »

USDA Breaks Ground on People’s Garden in Delaware

Brad Fisher, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

On May 20, 2010, the USDA State Office in Dover, Delaware broke ground on its People’s Garden, answering Secretary Vilsack’s call to plant such gardens at Department offices around the globe. The Secretary established the People’s Garden project in February 2009 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.  (See the groundbreaking on YouTube.)  Since then, more than 300 People’s Garden have blossomed across the country.

The office has 80 Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Information Technology Services employees. The employees will volunteer their time to help care for and harvest the garden. The garden’s bounty will help needy families in the area and provide a hands-on learning experience for second graders at North Dover Elementary School.

And not only does the Delaware garden grow food, it grows partnerships, as well. At the ceremony, NRCS Chief Dave White pointed to the cooperative efforts by federal and state agencies, schools, and private conservation groups to make the garden a reality.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook told the crowd that this and other People’s Garden’s are important to making people aware of where their food comes from and encouraging smart eating.

Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, affirmed that People’s Gardens educate the public about the work that farmers do every day to provide food, fiber, and fuel. 

NRCS Delaware State Conservationist Russell Morgan said that he sees People’s Gardens as ways to teach lessons in taking better care of natural resources.

One phase of the People’s Garden at the USDA office in Dover is the expansion of a rain garden. Storm water runoff and flooding are top concerns in the Delaware Estuary because of the damage that can occur when large volumes of rainwater occur.

Learn more about the People’s Garden movement at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

NRCS employees dig out paths and install borders and landscape fabric.

NRCS employees dig out paths and install borders and landscape fabric.

The garden is in the final construction stages. Only a few more steps to complete before the ground is ready for spring planting.

The garden is in the final construction stages. Only a few more steps to complete before the ground is ready for spring planting.

FFAS Deputy Under Secretary Vetter Travels to Kenya to Recognize World Food Program Projects and Their Impact on Food Security

I recently returned from Nairobi, where I got a firsthand look at USDA’s food aid programs. Due to volcanic ash in Europe, my arrival was delayed by 36 hours.  I tried to outmaneuver the cloud by taking the scenic route — Washington to Boston to Amsterdam to Paris to Nairobi.  While I enjoyed my multi-airport tour, Mother Nature still got the best of me.  She added further insult by holding my luggage in a city other than Nairobi.

During my time in Africa, I gained an appreciation for the excellent results that the World Food Program (WFP) and private voluntary organizations are producing with resources provided by the U.S. food aid programs.

Senator George McGovern and I visited programs that are helping adults and children with HIV and AIDS. While it was heartbreaking to see so many infants, children, and adults with this disease, U.S. Government programs are providing relief and hope to these children and families. Read more »