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Meet Face (and Hands) of Food Safety Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson

The job of communicating food safety information to deaf and hard of hearing consumers is, literally, in Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson's hands.

The job of communicating food safety information to deaf and hard of hearing consumers is, literally, in Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson's hands.

“Food safety worker” may bring to mind images of scientists in lab coats, inspectors at processing plants, or investigators checking out what’s on supermarket shelves. A crucial but less recognized component of protecting the public from foodborne illness, however, rests on the shoulders of those who alert consumers about potential dangers and actions they should take to keep themselves healthy and safe (Goal 3 of FSIS’ FY 2011-2016 Strategic Plan). And some of those consumers can be difficult to reach. Enter Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson, a top-notch communicator who can make sense out of the most complex language and fashion it so that it is easily understood by consumers. Read more »

Forests in Arizona Train Veterans

Civilian life is unlike that of military life in the service.  Two forests, the Apache-Sitgreaves and the Prescott National Forest have recently developed programs to help veterans in their transition to civilian life.

Through grants obtained by the U.S. Forest Service, these programs were offered to veterans from multiple branches of the armed forces with varied military service backgrounds.  Veterans were hired to these corps teams and worked on fuels reduction as wildland firefighters doing wildland fire suppression. Read more »

Good Food for All People: Food Hubs at Work in Philadelphia

Leveraging the buying power of the entire community creates a steady demand for local farmers and brings fresh produce, like the squash pictured above, to community hospitals and schools.

Leveraging the buying power of the entire community creates a steady demand for local farmers and brings fresh produce, like the squash pictured above, to community hospitals and schools.

There are many communities across the country grappling with limited access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables at a time when these same communities are fighting rising rates of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses. The very definition of community—that inter-connectedness between residents, businesses, hospitals and schools—means that health or food issues that affect one part of the community can have a negative impact on the rest. Read more »

Working With Our Partners for a Healthier Future

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year. Also, in In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced “Let’s Move” incorporating the HealthierUS School Challenge into her campaign to promote a healthier generation of children. USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in over 15 years. The new standards encourage fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes at the Parklawn Elementary School Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.  USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Wednesday was a monumental day for kids, families, educators, administrators, food service workers and the advocates who have led the charge and worked hand in hand to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s school children.

For the first time in over a decade the federal government has made significant changes to school meals that will provide kids across the country with the nourishment they will need to flourish in school and in life. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: An Economy That’s Built to Last

This week, in his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

The President and I believe that this is a make or break moment for the middle class. What’s at stake is the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement. Read more »

Iowa Stakeholders Meet with USDA Officials to Discuss Renewable Energy Opportunities

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a meeting with many rural energy stakeholders that USDA Rural Development works closely with here in Iowa.

Joining me in the discussion were representatives from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, MidAmerican Energy, USDA Farm Service Agency, Community Vitality Center at Iowa State University, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and many more.

Also in attendance were representatives from Senator Tom Harkin’s and Congressman Leonard Boswell’s offices.  Senator Harkin helped draft the original Energy Title in the 2002 Farm Bill. Read more »