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Earth Day in North Dakota Celebrated with School Children and Tree Planting

Written by Jane Grant, Public Information Officer

The spirit of the first Earth Day, 40 years ago, continued this year in Finley as North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider joined Rural Utilities Representative John Padalino, Finley Mayor Larry Amundson, local leaders, and Finley school children and the community to celebrate the announcement of a water and environmental project totaling $1.7 million.

“USDA Rural Development is proud to be a partner in this project helping the city of Finley build and upgrade essential infrastructure demonstrating President Obama’s continued efforts to improve the quality of life for rural residents,” State Director Schneider said.

Manholes, sewer mains and sewer lines will be replaced, improving water quality for Finley residents.

The school children played a major role in celebrating Earth Day starting with Boy Scouts presenting  the colors and the students leading the Pledge of Allegiance.  They shared their ideas and rapped a song about how each person can play a role in creating a cleaner, healthier planet.  To demonstrate their commitment to the planet, the students walked back to school picking up trash along the way.

An American Linden tree was planted in Centennial Park, to serve as a reminder of Earth Day 2010.

North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider (left) shovels during a tree planting ceremony celebrating Earth Day 2010, in Finley, ND. Assisting are Finley Mayor Larry Amundson (center) and Special Assistant for Rural Utilities John Padalino (right).

North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider (left) shovels during a tree planting ceremony celebrating Earth Day 2010, in Finley, ND. Assisting are Finley Mayor Larry Amundson (center) and Special Assistant for Rural Utilities John Padalino (right). 

Mobilize to Make a Difference – Join an Apps for Healthy Kids Game Jam this Weekend!

A few short weeks week ago we announced an exciting partnership with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) to kindle innovation and creativity and offering unique opportunities for Apps for Healthy Kids contestants.  Now the excitement is about to begin.

Later today, Game Jams will kick off nationwide to provide support and feedback for designers and developers as they create games and apps with a nutrition focus for the competition. The game jams will draw game developers, graphic artists, and local youth together to brainstorm ideas and produce video game prototypes from scratch in just 48 hours.

Adding to the buzz, U.S. Chief technology Officer Aneesh Chopra will be on hand this afternoon at the George Mason University Game Jam to open the weekend of innovation. Tune in later this evening to watch his call to action and get the creativity flowing. His opening remarks will be streamed live at 5pm here. 

As many of you followers of the game scene know, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop innovative, fun, and engaging tools and games that help kids and their parents eat better and be more physically active. Prizes totaling $60,000 will be awarded to the entries that are voted the best by a panel of expert judges.

This weekend’s jams will offer a great opportunity for amateur and professional developers to share ideas and make great progress on their submissions. The prototypes created during the jams will be displayed at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference, May 26-27, 2010 in Boston, further refined, and submitted to the Apps for Healthy Kids competition before the June 30th deadline.

Current Game Jam locations include:

 

  • Boston, MA: Microsoft New England Research and Development, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. Runs Friday 5pm-9pm, Saturday 9am-9pm, Sunday 9am-6pm. Meals will be provided, but computers will not (so bring your own if possible). Boston announcement is here, if interested visit their registration page. For questions, contact the Boston organizer: Darius Kazemi (darius.kazemi@gmail.com)
  • Seattle, WA: Art Institute of Seattle, 2501 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA – Room 102 (enter at the main entrance on Alaskan Way, other entrances may be locked). Runs Friday 4pm-midnight, Saturday 9am-midnight, Sunday 9am-4pm. Be aware there is only street parking and paid garages in the area, so plan accordingly. Seattle organizer: Rusel DeMaria (rdemaria@aii.edu)
  • Orlando, FL: ZeeGee Games, 1 Purlieu Place, Winter Park FL. Runs Friday 6pm-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. If interested, visit their Facebook page for more info and to RSVP. Orlando organizer: Dustin Clingman (dustin.clingman@imilabs.com)
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, 700 Technology Drive. Runs Saturday 10am through Sunday 10am (overnight), with an additional Physical Game Jam from Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event page to sign up. Pittsburgh organizer: Jia Ji (jia@couchange.org)
  • Albany, NY: Troy Boys and Girls Club, 1700 Seventh Ave, Troy NY. Runs Friday 6pm-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event website for more info. New York organizer: Ian Stead (albanyigda@gmail.com)
  • Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, Fairfax Campus, Art and Design Building RM 1018. Starts Friday at 5pm. Participants should bring their own computers if possible. Meals will be provided. Fairfax organizers: Joel Gonzalez (gamejam@lowpolycount.com) and Scott Martin (smartin4@gmu.edu)
  • Athens, GA: Mowerks Learning, 130 Ware Street, Unit A. Athens organizer: Jordan Lynn (jordanlynn@mowerkslearning.com)

 

So get jammin’!

By Amanda Eamich, Director of New Media, USDA

Health Games Challenge Logo

USDA Forest Service Employees Partner with Non-Profits in their Vallejo, CA Community (Blog readers can help us win a grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods!)

By Amanda Cundiff, Forest Service Region 5 Partnership Coordinator and Lara Polansky, Forest Service Presidential Management FellowIn Vallejo, California, on a decommissioned Naval Shipyard called Mare Island, something good has emerged from hard times: a new community coalition to build and sustain a city garden. Home to over 110,000 individuals, Vallejo is known for being diverse, depressed, crime-ridden, and bankrupt. Since the Naval Shipyard closed and the recession hit, Vallejo has struggled with poverty, stretched city services, and troubled schools. Crime and poverty are high, and, perhaps as a result, Vallejo is a quintessential food desert.

Our coalition envisions a People’s Garden for Vallejo. The Garden will provide fresh produce to low-income residents and teach sustainable gardening practices. Coalition members each bring something vital to the project: volunteers to build and maintain the garden, low-income clients to benefit from vegetables and fresh eggs, and students to learn about nutrition and food production through action.

The lead partners in the Vallejo People’s Garden are:

Global Center for Success (www.globalcenterforsuccess.org) is a 501(c)(3) on Mare Island that provides supportive human services and programs to the homeless and needy. GCS is excited to start a garden right in its backyard to serve as an outdoor classroom, a community hub, and a source of free organic produce for its clients.

The Regional Office of the USDA Forest Service, located on Mare Island, employs over 200 people. The Forest Service will contribute volunteers and (eventually) land for a second garden. The convenient location of the Vallejo People’s Garden will provide an opportunity for employees to meet and work alongside our neighbors and have a healthy place to volunteer during lunch breaks and after work.

Betty Frank Senior Lunch Program is a 501(c)(3) feeding program that serves lunch daily in a community center, about 10 minutes from Mare Island in Vallejo. The coalition plans to provide fresh produce to this senior center’s kitchen and to arrange visits for seniors to tour and even volunteer in the garden. The drawn plans for the garden include handicapped-accessible raised beds that will be easy for seniors to reach. Additionally, teachers at Mare Island Elementary School across the street from the future garden site are excited about bringing students over for lessons in food production and nutrition.

Landscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional OfficeLandscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional Office

To jump start these “shovel ready” projects, the Forest Service Region 5 Regional Office is competing for a grant from Nature’s Path Organics.  A Nature’s Path grant would provide funds to purchase the materials, tools, and lumber to build raised beds, compost bins, a chicken house, bee hive, fencing, educational signs, rain barrels, and storage shed.

To VOTE for the “Vallejo People’s Garden”:

1.      1. Go to  http://www.justmeans.com/contestidea?ideaid=NDUz  and click on “VOTE”

2.      2. Create an account by giving your name, personal email address (Forest Service email address won’t work), and making up a password

3.      3. Check your email and click on the link to activate your account.    You are now done voting for us! 

Bonus points:  You can add a message of support in the comment box.

Your votes and comments are the only way for us to demonstrate support for this project and convince Nature’s Path Organic to fund this project.    The deadline for votes is May 31.

The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.

SIAL China 2010 Trade Show Opens in Shanghai to Throngs of Visitors, Demonstrating to the World how Trade Works

By Janet Nuzum, Associate Administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service

Today I am in bustling and busy Shanghai representing USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service at the SIAL China 2010 trade show.  SIAL China is celebrating its 11th year as one of the largest, most comprehensive trade shows for the food, beverage, and hospitality industry in China. Last year, SIAL China had more than 1,000 exhibitors and over 28,000 visitors. As China’s trade and commercial center, this city is an appropriate place to hold a trade show of this magnitude, especially during World Trade Week.

In addition to the opening of SIAL China today, Shanghai is hosting the World Expo 2010 from May 1 through October 31. This Expo may be the largest World’s Fair ever, with 70 million visitors from all over the world expected to attend. With that many people anticipated in this city of 20 million over the next six months, you can only imagine how crowded the streets already are and will be. 

I had the opportunity to visit the World Expo yesterday, along with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who is leading a clean energy business development and trade mission to China and Indonesia. I was truly amazed by the size and scope of this unforgettable Expo that is spread over two square miles along both sides of the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai.

In preparation for the World Expo, Shanghai has transformed itself in less than a decade from an industrial town to a cosmopolitan metropolis. Its growth is indicative of the rapid changes happening in this country of 1.3 billion people. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001, it has lowered tariffs and liberalized its economy, resulting in rapid growth in gross domestic product, direct foreign investment, imports and exports. 

This growth means Chinese consumers have more disposable income to spend on food and clothing, which creates real opportunities for U.S. exporters of food and fiber. That is why I am here at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show to see and learn about the changes happening in this dynamic market and what it means for U.S. agricultural exporters. As I walked through the U.S. Pavilion, I saw Chinese buyers from both the retail and food service sectors looking eagerly at the vast range of U.S. food and beverage products on display. U.S. exporters are here from all over the United States from Alaska to Alabama.  Their products include everything from seafood to pork and wild blueberries to walnuts.  What an exciting array of sights, smells, and tastes!

Last year, 42 U.S. Pavilion exhibitors made $2.5 million in on-site sales with another $17 million expected over the ensuing 12 months.  With 58 U.S. exhibitors this year—the largest we have ever had at this show—sales will undoubtedly be even higher.  The growing number of U.S. exhibitors is a testament to the broader awareness in the United States of the tremendous market potential here in China.

Earlier today, I participated in a press conference with Chinese and foreign dignitaries to open the show, which runs from May 19-21. At the press conference, I emphasized how much we value our trade and economic relationship with China. Currently, China is the United States’ second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. Last year, two-way trade in agricultural, fish, and forest products exceeded $21 billion, more than quadrupling in value since 2001. Clearly, both of our countries benefit immensely from our vibrant bilateral relationship and exchange of goods and services. And the U.S. exhibitors here at SIAL China 2010 assured me that the prospects for increased U.S. exports look even brighter!

FAS Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum speaks with U.S. exporters at the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association booth in the USA Pavilion at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show in Shanghai, China. Photo Credit: Bill Shen, U.S. Agricultural Trade Office, Shanghai, China

FAS Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum speaks with U.S. exporters at the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association booth in the USA Pavilion at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show in Shanghai, China. Photo Credit: Bill Shen, U.S. Agricultural Trade Office, Shanghai, China 

Vilsack Addresses Food Security During Global Affairs Symposium

Today marks the release of the Feed the Future Initiative Guide during the Chicago Council of Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security. This guide lays out the implementation strategy for the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. USDA has been actively engaged in the development of the Feed the Future strategy from its inception and created an inter-departmental food security council that has contributed to the Feed the Future strategy and provided reviews of country investment plans.

In Washington, DC today, Secretary Vilsack gave a speech on the importance of global food security during the symposium. During the symposium, Secretary Vilsack joined leaders of various U.S. Government agencies and world development groups to discuss U.S. food security and agricultural development policy in conjunction with this initiative. Secretary Vilsack touched on how many of USDA’s strengths would contribute immensely to this initiative, specifically the Department’s capacity to conduct and promote research, as well as contribute in the area of institutional capacity building.

Vilsack emphasized that USDA’s global food security strategy focuses on a number of interventions needed to increase global food production and increase the incomes of the poor. His speech focused on two of these areas: 1) research and extension, and 2) building capacity through assistance, sound public policies and institutions. 

USDA have been working with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a global agricultural research agenda that addresses some of the fundamental constraints that contribute to food insecurity, such as pests, disease and weather in major food crops and livestock products. The strategy will also focus on increasing agricultural productivity and improving soil and water use efficiency.

Ensuring food security goes beyond just producing food—it also involves providing access to food, through trade, private investment in the agri-food sector, improving food safety and nutrition, and developing and deploying new technologies. USDA also offers fellowships to train scientists and faculty exchange programs to train agricultural faculty and develop adult education programs.

Creating a vibrant global food system, where all people have enough to eat, where farmers, wherever they are located, are profitable and are sustainable, is an important goal for USDA. USDA sees our engagement in Feed the Future as central to achieving that goal, and we believe that our unique capacities in research, extension, and institutional capacity building can make an important contribution to this initiative. 

Learn more about the Feed the Future Initiative at FeedtheFuture.gov.

Deputy Secretary Visits Romulus, Michigan Auto Parts Facility to Highlight Recovery Act Jobs Impact

Today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Aztec Manufacturing Corporation, a Romulus, Mich., auto supply manufacturer that intends to purchase new equipment as a result of loan funds guaranteed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »