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Our Commitment to Diversity and Equality at Rural Development

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right)

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.

Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve.  This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound.  By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.

As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

SNAP Participation Shows Marked Decline

A family shopping

SNAP is a key component of America’s nutrition safety net, helping families in need get the nutrition they need.

The number of people participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been declining now for several years from a high of nearly 48 million people back in 2013 to a little more than 43 million in June. That is a drop of about 4.4 million people. This downward trend is encouraging but should come as no surprise. SNAP is designed to respond to the economy by expanding and contracting based on economic conditions. As the economy continues to grow and recover from the recession, recent data shows household incomes beginning to rise. I’m confident that we’ll see these numbers shrink even more.

The best way to keep the numbers of SNAP participants on a downward trend is to connect recipients with opportunities to develop skills for in-demand jobs in their communities. Many Americans have gained employment but still do not have an income high enough to transition off the program. SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs can help individuals find jobs that allow working families to make ends meet without public assistance. Read more »

When Storm Clouds Darkened the Skies in Southern Louisiana, Extension Specialists Lit up Social Media

Flooding in Louisiana

The Healthy Homes Partnership is helping flood victims in Louisiana recover and rebuild. USDA photo

(This guest blog describes how the Healthy Homes Partnership helped residents affected by recent flooding in Louisiana.  Healthy Homes Partnership is an interagency program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and is housed at the University of Missouri – Extension. Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you and your family as you just don’t know when a disaster will strike your community.)

By Michael Goldschmidt, national director of Healthy Homes Partnership, University of Missouri Extension

In mid-August, residents of Southern Louisiana were deluged by about two feet of rain.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the resulting flooding caused at least 13 deaths and damaged more than 100,000 homes. Several federal agencies and partners sprang into action to help, including Healthy Homes Partnership (HHP). Read more »

Centennial Job Corps Students Support Firefighting Preparedness through Camp Crew

Centennial Job Corps camp crew cleaning hose

Centennial Job Corps camp crew cleaning hose returned from the fire line. Forest Service photo

In the back parking lot of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), seven workers wear neon green shirts with the Camp Crew logo written across the back.

And they stand out.

They are young and their bright T-shirts contrast with those of the more seasoned personnel. As the crew works among large mounds of fire hose spread throughout the lot, it’s obvious they have one thing on their mind: meticulously preparing the hose for the next fire. Read more »

The Annual Harvest Challenge: Student Teams Supported by Chefs Move to Schools and Farm to School

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move blog:

The annual Harvest Challenge, menu planning and cooking event for high school students, is an important example of how aspiring chefs get started and learn to create winning recipes.

This exciting contest, which is now going into its 8th year, challenges teams of high school students – including staff and chef mentors – to develop a creative, appetizing and visually appealing school lunch entrée and side dish while incorporating locally grown foods. At the same time, the entrée and side dish must comply with USDA National School Lunch nutrition standards and meet a budget of $1 per person per serving (entrée and side dish combined). “This is a fun and challenging event for our high school students that really enables them to appreciate the hard work that goes into school food programs,” says Ashlee Gabrielson, director of the Vernon County Farm to School Program in Wisconsin. Read more »

Are You and Your Food Prepared for a Power Outage?

Severe Weather Food Safety infographic

Know how to keep food safe before, during and after emergencies. Hurricanes, tornadoes, winter weather and other events may cause power outages. Follow these tips to help minimize food loss and reduce your risk of foodborne illness. (Click to view a larger version)

Every year, the month of September is recognized as National Preparedness Month.  It is a good time to think about emergency planning for any disaster or emergency.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

Weather can be extremely unpredictable, as many communities throughout Louisiana can attest with the recent devastating flooding.  These emergencies and disasters can happen anywhere. Even if you live in an area that doesn’t typically experience extreme weather, you still might experience occasional power outages. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service can help you plan and prepare for a power outage caused by a disaster or emergency with practical food safety guidance.  You can keep this information in a place where you can quickly pull it out should you need it. Read more »