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Celebrate Labor Day with a MyPlate Picnic

Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus

Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus

A picnic is an easy and relaxing holiday activity. USDA’s MyPlate resources can help take the “labor” out of your Labor Day picnic. You can enjoy an easy, healthy meal by following this simple MyPlate formula: 5 food groups + family and friends = fun! When planning your picnic, be sure to include more healthful choices of menu items from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and water or 100% juice to drink.

Fruit
Celebrate the end of summer by enjoying seasonal fruits. You can make an easy (and portable) fruit salad by dicing up fresh fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, kiwi, and strawberries. If you choose to include apples, bananas, or pears, just add a splash of citrus (like orange juice) to prevent browning. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this refreshing MyPlate watermelon gazpacho recipe. You can bring it in a lidded container, or divide into jars for individual portions. Read more »

CDFI – Important Part of Infrastructure

The 8th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit was held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Utah’s Rural Development State Director Wilson “David” Conine wanted to share with attendees the importance a community development financial institution (CDFI) can play in tribal development.  He turned to his counterpart, South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks who has over 20 years of experience working for Native community economic development.

Meeks recognized CDFI as an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people.  They combine multiple sources of public and private capital in order to make loans and investments available in ways tailored to the particular underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers.  Developing capacity among these types of organizations can increase utilization of USDA programs in a region, many of which provide long-term below-market capital for permanent improvements in rural areas. Read more »

The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge! Summer Fun that Helps Kids Learn

This is a screen capture from the Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge online game for kids. The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge teaches moms and children about healthy habits and provides practical ways they can incorporate them.

This is a screen capture from the Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge online game for kids. The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge teaches moms and children about healthy habits and provides practical ways they can incorporate them.

It’s summer time! And kids’ thoughts naturally turn to ways to have fun and enjoy themselves! Moms, on the other hand, want kids to continue to learn and develop their skills while they enjoy the lazy days of summer.  The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge is an online game that meets the needs of moms and kids. The game inspires kids to jump into good nutrition and have fun while learning. It also helps kids to make good food choices and encourages them to be physically active between events to warm them up for the next challenge and to celebrate!

In this online game from USDA, kids pick their player and progress through four track and field events including the javelin, high jump, long jump, and the dash. To win, players must quickly pick the right answer to questions about healthy eating and nutrition. As players advance from one event to the next, they are encouraged to be active: “Now jump up and down five times to celebrate!” When kids answer correctly, their players get a medal at the end of the game. Questions are randomly selected so kids can play multiple times to get a better score or “go for the gold” on the winner’s stand. Read more »

Schools Around the Country Successfully Implementing New Meal Standards

Today a news report claimed that schools across the country are dropping out of the National School Lunch Program because the standards are too difficult to implement.

The truth is that the vast majority of schools across the country are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, which is so important to help all our Nations children lead healthier lives. Even before the new standards took effect and more resources were available, many schools across the country were leading the way with healthier options and appropriate portion sizes. In fact, schools that adopted the changes earlier report that participation increased as students and parents became accustomed to the healthier options. USDA continues to provide additional flexibility and technical assistance to schools as they all now work to offer healthier meals. We also encourage the very few eligible school districts that have chosen not to participate in the program to take steps to ensure all children will still have access to healthy, affordable meals during the school day. Read more »

Forest Service Hosts National Boy Scout Jamboree

Boy Scouts work on pulp and paper merit badge at the Forest Service exhibit. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Boy Scouts work on pulp and paper merit badge at the Forest Service exhibit. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Did you know the U.S. Forest Service has a long connection to the Boy Scouts of America? Roughly 78 percent of Forest Service employees were Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts in their youth; and many scouting projects, including Eagle Scout projects, take place on national forests or grasslands.

“The Boy Scouts of America is a longtime valued partner of the Forest Service,” said DeVela J. Clark, deputy forest supervisor on the Monongahela National Forest. “Scouts have assisted our National Forests and Grasslands with numerous conservation service projects across the country.”

The Forest Service has been a part of the National Boy Scout Jamboree since 1964, when the Jamboree was held at Valley Forge, Pa. Read more »

Appeal of Diverse Side of Ag Statistics

Troy Joshua (left) visited Matty Matarazzo’s (right) farm. Matarazzo owns and operates the Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, N.J.

Troy Joshua (left) visited Matty Matarazzo’s (right) farm. Matarazzo owns and operates the Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, N.J.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

Growing up in the rural community of St. James, Louisiana, I always had a passion for agriculture. In 1992, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business from Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and earned a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University two years later.

For my master’s thesis, I created an economic model analyzing the profitability of the Washington state asparagus industry. To get the data for my thesis, I created and mailed questionnaires, editing and analyzing all of the responses. This experience sparked my interest in the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and I joined the agency’s California Field Office in 1994. Read more »