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During the Holiday of Plenty, Remembering Those with Less

This morning, Huffington Post published an op-ed from USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon highlighting the continued need for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, particularly around the holidays, and reiterating the need for Congress to act on a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.

As we gather around the dinner table this holiday season, we are called to reflect on our blessings–a healthy family, a job, a bountiful meal on the table. Yet there are millions of American families who are still rebuilding in the wake of the worst recession in decades–and they still need help.

As a country, we have always prided ourselves on providing–on a bipartisan basis–a responsive food assistance safety net through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP recipients have fallen on tough times, and the program provides temporary help to put healthy food on the table–but what does that mean in real terms?  Read more on Huffington Post.

A New Partnership to Sack Food Waste

Cross posted from the Dairy Good blog:

Across the nation, Americans from all walks of life are taking steps to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Part of the solution lies in finding innovative new ways to use food that would otherwise by wasted. That’s where the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State University, the City of Cleveland, the Dairy Innovation Center and other partners are stepping in to help.

On Sunday, November 24, this new partnership will begin taking waste from FirstEnergy Stadium and turning it into clean, renewable energy. Anaerobic digesters like the one in Cleveland are being built in greater numbers across the nation.  In fact, working together with the dairy industry, USDA has provided more than 240 awards since 2009 to construct anaerobic digesters. Read more »

Hangout to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

At USDA, we know that local and regional food systems are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector.   Local and regional food is a multi-billion dollar market opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and food businesses. From the produce vendor at one of the nation’s 8,100 farmers markets to the operating  220 food hubs across America to the robust farm to school activities in each state,  the expanding market opportunity for local and regional food continues to gain momentum

USDA stands ready to aid and assist America’s farmers and ranchers who want to participate in this growing sector. We’ve been coordinating our work via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. However, our ability to continue supporting the local and regional food marketplace is at stake without the passage of a Food, Farms and Job Bill. Read more »

Ensuring Safety of Imported Processed Chicken from China

On August 30th, FSIS announced the results of our verification audit of China’s poultry processing inspection system, which reaffirmed the equivalence of China’s poultry processing system.  This determination was made after a long and careful review by our expert auditors to ensure that China’s system for processed poultry meets the United States’ safety standards.  FSIS’ core mission is food safety and our staff works hard and diligently to ensure that the U.S. food supply remains safe.  Since the announcement of the audit results, our agency has received several inquires regarding this determination so I want to take the time to explain this process and clarify any misperceptions.

Let me start with explaining what this “equivalence” determination means.  If a country wants to export FSIS regulated product to the United States, as a regulatory agency, we are required to review this request and conduct an audit to determine if their food safety system meets U.S. standards.  The process for determining China’s equivalence began in 2004, when China submitted a formal request to FSIS that the agency evaluate China’s poultry system to assess it equivalence and thus its eligibility to export poultry products to the United States.  After an extensive audit, FSIS granted China “equivalence” for processed poultry in 2006 which meant that China was eligible to export cooked chicken to the U.S. as long as the raw poultry was from an approved source.  FSIS began rulemaking and published a final rule in the Federal Register, adding China to the list of countries eligible to export cooked poultry to the United States.  However, the 2008 appropriations bill prohibited FSIS from using funding to implement the final rule that allowed China to export processed chicken.  In 2010, the appropriations ban was lifted and China submitted a new request for an equivalence audit. Read more »

Now That’s Special: USDA Program Fuels Economic Development

A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market.  Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops.  Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill.  Photo by Melinda Shelton.

A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market. Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops. Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill. Photo by Melinda Shelton.

“Specialty crops”—the label may sound like exotic foods or something reserved for a special occasion, but this area of agriculture represents more than half the foods we eat on a daily basis.  Defined as fruits and veggies, tree nuts, herbs, dried fruit, decorative plants and flowers, these crops are not only a key component of a healthy diet—they are also key to sustaining U.S. farms and agriculture. Read more »

What Would You do to Keep Your Food Safe During an Emergency?

September is National Preparedness Month, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reminds you to plan ahead in order to keep your food safe just in case you encounter hurricanes, flooding, fires, power outages or other emergencies that threaten storage conditions.

On any given day, maintaining the proper temperature and sanitation of food storage areas should prevent bacterial growth and keep your food safe to eat.  However, severe weather and other emergencies can compromise these conditions.

Knowing what to do during emergencies can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick.  You and your family should have an emergency plan in place that includes food and water safety precautionsYou might find  “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes“  helpful as you can print it out and use it as a guide on what to do during a power outage.  You also can get timely food safety information relevant to a particular state or territory on Twitter by following @XX_FSISAlert.  Just replace the XX with each state or territory’s postal abbreviation. Read more »