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Secretary’s Column: Energy Efficiency and the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced more than 630 new projects across the country under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  These new projects will help producers and businesses boost their bottom line, while increasing America’s energy security and protecting our environment.

Energy efficiency programs are a key part of the President’s overall plan to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate, while building our renewable energy capacity to support an all-of-the-above approach to America’s energy future.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA has used this program to support more than 7,000 energy efficiency projects. Many of these provided assistance on small and medium-sized farm and ranches, or in rural businesses. Read more »

Quinoa: A Plant with a Lot of Potential

Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

In February of this year, the United National declared 2013 the International Year of the Quinoa. Yet, I’m sure not many people have even heard of quinoa, let alone know about its nutritional qualities.

Originating from Bolivia, Chile and Peru around 5,000 years ago, quinoa is a grain that is growing in popularity across the country. Consumed like rice and used to make flour, soup, cereals or alcohol, quinoa is very nutritious due to its high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world. Read more »

Back to Healthy School Meals: USDA Congratulates Six States for Nearly 100% of Schools Meeting New Meal Standards

School cafeterias across the country are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids.

School cafeterias across the country are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids.

As we continue to combat childhood obesity in America, I am proud to say that this Back to School season our school cafeterias are at the heart of offering great nutrition for our kids. Students and schools are embracing the healthier lunches offered through the National School Lunch Program that, together with the healthier breakfasts offered through the School Breakfast Program beginning this school year and the recently announced “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards that kick in next year, continue our children on the path towards future health and happiness.

So how are school cafeterias faring with all the meal updates across the nation? Like I said, they are putting their hearts into it. Read more »

The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Mission in Action: Meet CSIs Toot, Curb and Carson

FSIS Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSIs) Anthony Carson, Rick Toot, and Rosalinda Curb are just a few of the exemplary FSIS employees who work hard every day to protect public health and ensure the humane treatment of livestock presented for slaughter.

Anthony Carson, a CSI in the Dallas district, contributes greatly to enforcing humane handling policy at the cull cattle plant where he works.

The oldest son of a small-town veterinarian, Carson has worked with cattle for as long as he can remember. Carson’s father has been his greatest influence. “Dad gave me that love of animal husbandry, instilled in me a strong work ethic, and showed me the importance of constant self-improvement.” Read more »

A New Science Classroom Ready for Experiments

The Lake Holcombe High School in Holcombe, Wisconsin recently upgraded its science classroom as a result of a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Economic Impact Initiative Grant.  Holcombe is a small rural community in the northwest area of the state.  The science classroom was outdated, making it difficult for the teachers to keep pace with new curriculum requirements and for students to conduct the necessary science experiments for that curriculum.

The newly redesigned science classroom is now compliant with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and is similar to other high school science classrooms in the state.  A tank was also installed, along with new plumbing, to provide treatment for the chemical waste generated from science-related class work.  Now, the science curriculum can be expanded to offer experiences and experiments to the students that are equivalent with other science courses offered to their peers in the state.  In addition, new flooring, counters tops, bench fuel valves, sinks, and cabinets were installed, bringing the classroom into the 21st century.  The 2013-2014 school year will be the first full year that the students will have access to the improvements. Read more »

Back to School: New Opportunities for the Virtual Classroom

The front entrance of Anderson Public School in rural Gallatin County, Montana. USDA photo.

The front entrance of Anderson Public School in rural Gallatin County, Montana. USDA photo.

Back to school means a fun and exciting way to learn for students of Anderson Public School in rural Gallatin County, Montana. Using a Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant from USDA Rural Development, Anderson Public School and nine other rural schools in Montana installed the necessary equipment to connect their students to share and expand learning opportunities.

Through the web-based portable videoconferencing equipment, the students in this community southwest of Bozeman, Montana have already been able to move beyond the walls of their classroom. The 4th grade class made a virtual visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and as the 8th grade students rode the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, their classmates in the 7th grade were able to join from back in Montana thanks to the equipment. Enterprising students are already coming up with new curriculum to share with their peers, including a student-led class on using a green screen to make your own videos. Read more »