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Farmers Markets as Community Centerpieces

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Farmers markets have become a critical ingredient to our nation’s economy, food systems, and communities. Connecting rural to urban, farmer to consumer, and fresh ingredients to our diets, farmers markets are becoming economic and community centerpieces in cities and towns across the U.S.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to kick off National Farmers Market Week at a wonderfully diverse and thriving market—the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace in Washington, DC.  Columbia Heights represents what I envision many farmers markets are like– a market with a deep sense of community that provides local residents with access to fresh, locally produced fruit, vegetables, meats, baked goods, and much more.  It’s also a place where neighbor meets neighbor, and the many benefits of having a farmers market nearby are felt throughout the community. Read more »

Enjoy Foods from Many Cultures with MyPlate

The summer months often present more leisure time for families and friends to gather together.  These celebrations, like celebrations throughout the year, usually involve food. The USDA wants to make sure that your festive meals are healthy and that’s why the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has released a new resource offering 10 tips to wisely celebrate healthier foods and customs. The new tip sheet, which is part of the 10 tips Nutrition Education Series, shows you how to embrace the favorite foods of your culture, as well as foods from other cultures, in a healthier way.

Enjoy Foods from Many Cultures, available for free download at ChooseMyPlate.gov, highlights ways to maintain a healthy diet while preparing and enjoying the food we love.  I recently talked about this with Taylor Durkin, a summer intern at CNPP, who reflected that “One of my favorite tips from this resource is to add a touch of spice. I always use herbs and spices like basil, cilantro, and ginger when I cook. It adds freshness and flavor to my meals!” Read more »

How Millennials are Reducing Food Waste

Today’s college students and young professionals are particularly attuned to the environmental issues that face our nation. Universities across the United States are often stuck with excess food left over from dining halls, sporting events, and other social gatherings that more often than not goes directly into the dumpsters.  While many young adults across the country are working their way through school and loan payments, they are also becoming increasingly cognizant of the efforts underway at their Universities to reduce food waste.

In a recent study conducted by The Princeton Review, 69 percent of college applicants claim that a University’s environmental commitment would contribute to their decision to apply or attend the school. Fortunately for college students, there are several innovative and environmentally friendly ways to deal with excess food waste on-campus. Read more »

How Immigration Reform Will Benefit Farmers and Rural Communities

Cross posted from the White House Blog:

Today, the White House released a new report detailing the important benefits provided by the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill for the domestic agriculture sector, its workforce, and rural American communities. As the report states, in recent years, the agriculture sector has seen strong growth, with farm income and agriculture exports both reaching historic highs. But there’s more work to do, and currently the agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce. Among all economic sectors, the U.S. agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign-born workers. Agricultural producers cite difficulty in locating qualified available authorized workers—both foreign and domestic—as one reason for the high rate of undocumented labor. Moreover, there continues to be insufficient U.S. workers to fill labor needs: of those crop workers surveyed between 2007 and 2009, 71 percent were foreign born.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “If we’re truly committed to strengthening our middle class and providing more ladders of opportunity to those who are willing to work hard to make it into the middle class, we’ve got to fix the system. We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable — businesses for who they hire, and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law. That’s common sense. And that’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform.” Read more »

FFA State Presidents ‘Suit Up’ for Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at a meeting of the White House Rural Council to an audience of the National State President’s Conference of the FFA on Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Secretary Vilsack took questions from the audience and discussed international, national and agricultural production topics with the FFA State President’s. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at a meeting of the White House Rural Council to an audience of the National State President’s Conference of the FFA on Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Secretary Vilsack took questions from the audience and discussed international, national and agricultural production topics with the FFA State President’s. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack had the opportunity to speak with some of our nation’s brightest young leaders at the National FFA Organization’s State Presidents’ Conference. He discussed USDA’s efforts to revitalize the rural economy and recognized the officers for their commitment to leadership, personal growth and career success. Below is a blog post submitted to USDA by Clay Sapp, 2012-13 National FFA President. Read more »

Double Up Food Bucks Expands to Grocery Stores

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

Earlier today, USDA announced the results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) and additional efforts to empower low-income families with the knowledge and skills they need to purchase and prepare healthy foods using SNAP benefits. To make the announcement, Secretary Vilsack conducted a call with Dr. Oran Hesterman, President and CEO of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Fair Food Network. Read more about Dr. Hesterman’s work and Fair Food Network’s project to improve SNAP recipients’ access to locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables in metropolitan Detroit below. Read more »