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Making Sure Consumers Get What They Pay For

Honey on biscuits

When ARS researchers wrote the definitive report on the composition of honey in 1962, they made it possible to detect whether other substances might have been added, thus allowing consumers to have confidence when the label says “100 percent honey.” (USDA-ARS photo by Scott Bauer).

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.

When you buy packaged foods at the grocery store, who makes sure what it says on the outside is true on the inside—whether you are reading “100 percent sweet honey” or checking the calories in a serving of nuts?

It never says so on the label, but many times the surety rests on the science of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Read more »

Summer Meals: Giving Families the Support They Need

Two girls outside

When school is out during the summer months and children are no longer receiving breakfast and lunch at school, many families struggle to feed their children nutritious meals each and every day.

As a mother and grandmother, I understand the importance of ensuring that America’s children are provided with nutritious meals every day. My grandchildren, who are 5 and 8, are just like all children – infinitely curious and filled with energy, love, and joy. Young children should be playing and learning — not worried about where their next meal will come from. But for many children, school meals are their only source of nutrition, which is why USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are so important.

Summer Meals provide kids with the nutrition they need when school is out, and a safe haven where they can play and learn to keep their minds and bodies active during the summer months. The availability of these meals, which are served at no cost to children 18 and under, also reduces the financial burden on caretakers when school is out of session. Read more »

Helping a Growing Family Build Their Own Home

The McLane family

With assistance from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Program, the McLanes' were able to become first-time homebuyers in Liberal, Kansas. USDA Rural Development has provided more than $6 million in home-loan financing through the Agency’s Single Family Housing Direct Program to Liberal Self-Help Program participants like the McLane Family.

As I watched Matthew McLane’s children play in the front yard of their home, I could tell how much this family loved being homeowners.  Matthew and Candice McLane became first time homebuyers through the Agency’s Mutual Self-Help Program in 2012.  The couple, and their two daughters, had been living in an apartment prior to building their home through the Self-Help Housing Program.  Now the couple has three children, and one more on the way this fall – and the house is filled with love and joy as the family prepares for the arrival of its newest member.

Listening to Matthew describe the self-help process, you can tell how much pride he has in his home.  He describes putting his sweat, blood and tears into the home, but loving every minute of it.  From learning how to hang drywall, to laying flooring or installing shingles, it was all new experiences and skills that Matthew learned.  When repairs are needed to the home now, Matthew is able to do the home maintenance and repairs himself. Read more »

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Amidst nutrition facts, ingredient lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for products.  Understanding what the organic label means can help shoppers make informed purchasing choices.

Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – enforces the organic regulations, ensuring the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal. Read more »

Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners. Read more »

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care New materials available as part of Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care

From the foods we serve to the conversations we share, involving young children in mealtimes creates a positive eating environment for everyone to enjoy. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides almost 4 million nutritious meals and snacks each day to children and adults in child care and group day care settings. These mealtimes provide a tremendous opportunity to help children establish healthy eating habits. CACFP providers are engaging children in cooking, serving, and other mealtime activities as a way to get children interested in new foods and to encourage healthful eating behaviors. 

On July 20, 2016, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) addressed these important topics by adding two new supplemental materials to an existing, comprehensive resource for CACFP providers, Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The new supplements, Create a Positive Meal Environment and Support Family Style Meals, offer fun ways child care providers can continue to create positive meal environments and adopt family style meals with children in their care. Through these practices, child care provides can help children try new foods, recognize foods from different food groups in a meal, and practice table manners. Both additions also offer tips and suggestions for including nutrition education activities during and outside of mealtimes.  Read more »