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USDA Community Roundtables on Nutrition Assistance Launched in South Texas

On March 19, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Deputy Administrator Lisa Pino traveled to Texas to meet with local leaders and members of the Rio Grande Valley community to talk about how to solve hunger issues in the area. FNS Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig and USDA Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg also took part in the discussions.

The Rio Grande Valley meetings were the first in a series of “Community Roundtables” USDA will host in cities across the country. The roundtables are a key component of ending childhood hunger by 2015.

The first roundtable focused on the community at large.  A second roundtable was held later that day with faith-based communities at the Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle-National Shrine.

Both roundtables were a success.  FNS was able to solicit helpful feedback regarding how it can better work with the Rio Grande community to ensure eligible people participate in nutritional assistance programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP currently provides food assistance to 39 million low-income people across the country and is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program.

The 2000 census showed that 35 percent of the Rio Grande Valley population lived below the federal poverty level compared to 12 percent nationally.

South West Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig (holding the podium) is addressing 50 community leaders, anti-hunger advocates, faith-based groups, and food bank to discuss ways to ending childhood hunger by finding ways to increase participation in our programs.
South West Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig (holding the podium) is addressing 50 community leaders, anti-hunger advocates, faith-based groups, and food bank to discuss ways to ending childhood hunger by finding ways to increase participation in our programs

A Tour of How Forest Service Job Corps Program Changes Lives

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to see first hand how the Forest Service Job Corps Program changes lives.  The motto of the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (JCCCC) is “Creating brighter futures one individual at a time” and this motto is applicable to all 28 JCCCCs. My day at Centennial began with a tour of the center to observe many of the vocational trades that are being taught at our centers.

This was followed by a groundbreaking for a  ”People’s Garden,” part of an international effort where our employees create sustainable gardens at every USDA facility. The food produced in this garden will provide both Job Corps students and the local community with fresh, nutritious produce.

A “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” luncheon featuring food from local agriculture producers, including lamb, trout, and beef, was next on the agenda.  Honoring Secretary Vilsack’s vision, Centennial Culinary Arts students created a fabulous luncheon composed of food produced in Idaho.  In preparation for the luncheon, our students visited local producers so that they appreciate the nation’s vital agricultural resources, strengthening connections with the local agricultural community. The food was absolutely delicious and I sampled a unique dessert of Ice Cream Potatoes!

Next was a program in which I unveiled Job Corps’ new green curriculum and new interagency partnership between  Forest Service JCCCCs and other USDA agencies.  The new curriculum emphasizes the integration of green skills into traditional and new trades.

Our JCCCCs are perfectly positioned to lead the country in developing an effective green jobs program and USDA now is taking steps to position our JCCCCs as a foundation of America’s Green Job Corps!  The new interagency partnership will expand job training, internship and career opportunities for Job Corps students.

Centennial, thank you for your warm welcome Kudos to the Forest Service Job Corps Program.   It was an honor!

By Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment

--People's Garden Groundbreaking L to R: Carl Powell, Business Community Liaison, Centennial JCCCC, Harv Forsgren, Regional Forester, Intermountain Region, Larry Dawson, Director, Forest Service Job Corps Michael Rolfe, President, Student Government Association, Centennial JCCCC, Meryl L.R. Harrel. Special Assistant to the Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, Harris Sherman, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, Safiya Samman, Director, Conservation Education, USDA Forest Service
People’s Garden Groundbreaking L to R: Carl Powell, Business Community Liaison, Centennial JCCCC, Harv Forsgren, Regional Forester, Intermountain Region, Larry Dawson, Director, Forest Service Job Corps , Michael Rolfe, President, Student Government Association, Centennial JCCCC, Meryl L.R. Harrell. Special Assistant to the Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, Harris Sherman, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, Safiya Samman, Director, Conservation Education, USDA Forest Service

Sign features the design and theme of the event--Forest Service Job Corps and USDA: Training America's Youth for the New Green Economy
Sign features the design and theme of the event–Forest Service Job Corps and USDA: Training America’s Youth for the New Green Economy

Attention Techies! Apps for Healthy Kids Launched Yesterday!

Yesterday was a very exciting day here at USDA as we joined First Lady Michelle Obama in announcing our Apps for Healthy Kids competition! Apps for Healthy Kids is part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to end childhood obesity. Read more »

Overflow Crowd for Job and Economic Growth Forum in Montgomery, Alabama

Stormy, cold, unpleasant weather did not hinder more than 125 people from attending the Job and Economic Growth Forum in Montgomery, Alabama last month hosted by USDA Rural Development and the USDA Farm Service Agency, as a follow-up to the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth that President Obama hosted at the White House on in December of last year. Read more »

Deputy Secretary Merrigan Brings ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ College Tour to Utah State University

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was at Utah State University yesterday, for a presentation to local leaders and students interested in food and agricultural policy. Attendees filled the auditorium to capacity with standing room only in the aisles to hear about what USDA is doing to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers. Read more »

National Nutrition Month “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating”

With 3,000 employees and visitors stopping by the U.S. Department of Agriculture cafeterias on a  daily basis, I was pleased to kick off the annual  National Nutrition Month at the  South Building Cafeteria at the USDA  headquarters here in Washington today.  I was joined by fellow USDA employees to introduce the 2010 theme “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating.”   This year’s event and theme are special to us because Secretary Vilsack and I have made nutrition and healthy living a top priority at USDA through the “Know Your Farmer,  Know Your Food” initiative. Read more »