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Scientists Discover Gene to Combat Devastating Wheat Rust

USDA scientists and their partners have found a molecular tool that will help control wheat stem rust, a fungal disease threatening much of the world’s wheat supply.

First reported in 1999 in Uganda, wheat stem rust–caused by the Ug99 pathogen–is a devastating disease in several countries in Africa and the Middle East where losses can be up to 70 percent. Many experts predict this specific strain could spread rapidly, causing a wheat shortage affecting food security worldwide. Ninety percent of the wheat grown worldwide is susceptible, so if no preventive action is taken, it could cause wheat shortages and affect food security. Read more »

A Healthier Generation Through Smart Snacks in Schools

Today, USDA is furthering its commitment to improving the way that our youngsters eat by establishing science-based, common-sense standards for snacks sold in schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will positively impact more than 50 million American youngsters by ensuring that they are offered only healthier foods at school. Read more »

StrikeForce Partnership Fighting Hunger in Virginia

Food and Nutrition Undersecretary Kevin Concannon (kneeling) and RD RBS Administrator, Lillian Salerno (far left) share a funny moment with two young men participating in this year's FNS Summer Feeding Program.

Food and Nutrition Undersecretary Kevin Concannon (kneeling) and RD RBS Administrator, Lillian Salerno (far left) share a funny moment with two young men participating in this year's FNS Summer Feeding Program.

USDA in Virginia is forging partnerships this summer to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) based program, free, nutritious meals are provided to all kids 18 years old and under at approved sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Summer Food Service Program has found an ally in its fight against childhood hunger with its partnership with USDA Rural Development Multi Family Housing Program to help get the word out about the problem of summer nutrition. With over 270 Multi Family complexes located across Virginia, some of which are in persistent poverty counties, this relationship has the potential to benefit many children statewide.  Over 30 kids enjoyed a healthy and nutritious meal at the Sandston Woods Multi Family Housing Apartment Complex on June 25th to kick off the program. Read more »

Buried Alive: The Petrifying True Story of a Forest Turned to Stone

A fossilized tree stump on the Gallatin National Forest. The stump is part of a huge forest that was buried in a volcanic eruption 50 million years ago. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

A fossilized tree stump on the Gallatin National Forest. The stump is part of a huge forest that was buried in a volcanic eruption 50 million years ago. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Imagine nearing the remote, rugged crest of the Gallatin Range in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest. As you scramble up-slope, you put your hand against what appears to be a lightning-blasted stump for balance. But the stump is not weather-polished wood—it’s made of stone.

These are the 50-million-year-old remains of redwoods, pines and sycamores which make up the Gallatin Petrified Forest, where fossilized tree trunks are preserved in so much detail that cellular structures may be seen under a microscope and growth rings are often visible to the naked eye. But how did these trees turn to stone? Read more »

Join the ‘Data Revolution’, Help Lay the Groundwork for Sustainable Agriculture

On June 8th, during the Nutrition for Growth event in London, the United Kingdom and United States governments announced plans to launch the Global Open Data Initiative for Agriculture and Nutrition.  This, in turn, built on the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture conference in late April, where I witnessed a successful coming together of innovators sharing new ways to make agriculturally-relevant data accessible to users around the world.  That goal is gaining momentum, and I am pleased to see a global initiative being formed on this critical issue because we must work together to achieve a “data revolution” for agriculture.

But it will only be successful if others come forward to join us, and I hope others will join us as we use data as another tool to help produce and feed people with safe, nutritious food. Read more »

USDA Helps Make Nutrition Education Fun For Kids

Here is a poster from the Dig In! curriculum that educators can post in the class room to encourage healthy eating.

Here is a poster from the Dig In! curriculum that educators can post in the class room to encourage healthy eating.

Research shows that students with healthful eating patterns tend to do better in school, and it’s important that children begin learning about food and nutrition when they’re young. In support of that goal, the Food and Nutrition Service recently released three free sets of curriculum educators can use to empower children to make healthful food choices and develop an awareness of how fruits and vegetables are grown.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure curriculum for 3rd and 4th grades includes 11 lessons, bulletin board materials, veggie dice, fruit and vegetable flash cards, and ten issues of Garden Detective News for parents/caregivers.  Kids will discover what fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest through investigations and fun experiences connecting the school garden to the classroom, school cafeteria and home. Read more »