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Reach Your Goals: Start with a Healthy Breakfast

At a very early age, I learned about the value of healthy eating. By the time I was 11 years old and training daily as a gymnast, I knew that eating right would help me achieve my goals. The goals I had for health, athletics, and academic performance were all tied to eating nutritious foods, and that started with breakfast. As an adult, I’ve maintained goals for fitness and health and that’s why I make sure to start each morning with a healthy breakfast.

As a young athlete it was critical to give my body the nutrients it needed to compete at a high level in the gym and in school. I learned about healthy eating by going grocery shopping with my parents and then helping to prepare meals with my family. I was also influenced by the food around me at school. Now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded School Breakfast Program beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, our nation’s youth will now have more options for starting their day off right. Read more »

Beginning Farmers Cattle Operation Benefits from Initiative for Underserved Farmers

Emma and Percy Brown of Vicksburg, Miss., are beginning farmers whose lives have benefited from funding through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

Emma and Percy Brown of Vicksburg, Miss., are beginning farmers whose lives have benefited from funding through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

For over a year, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson in order to water their cattle. It was a time consuming process that involved filling up eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.

That all changed when the Browns, who were new to farming, heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency that helps private landowners implement conservation. They visited the Port Gibson field office and learned that they could receive funding from NRCS for livestock water troughs through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

Celebrate Labor Day with a MyPlate Picnic

Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus

Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus

A picnic is an easy and relaxing holiday activity. USDA’s MyPlate resources can help take the “labor” out of your Labor Day picnic. You can enjoy an easy, healthy meal by following this simple MyPlate formula: 5 food groups + family and friends = fun! When planning your picnic, be sure to include more healthful choices of menu items from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and water or 100% juice to drink.

Fruit
Celebrate the end of summer by enjoying seasonal fruits. You can make an easy (and portable) fruit salad by dicing up fresh fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, kiwi, and strawberries. If you choose to include apples, bananas, or pears, just add a splash of citrus (like orange juice) to prevent browning. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this refreshing MyPlate watermelon gazpacho recipe. You can bring it in a lidded container, or divide into jars for individual portions. Read more »

CDFI – Important Part of Infrastructure

The 8th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit was held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Utah’s Rural Development State Director Wilson “David” Conine wanted to share with attendees the importance a community development financial institution (CDFI) can play in tribal development.  He turned to his counterpart, South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks who has over 20 years of experience working for Native community economic development.

Meeks recognized CDFI as an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people.  They combine multiple sources of public and private capital in order to make loans and investments available in ways tailored to the particular underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers.  Developing capacity among these types of organizations can increase utilization of USDA programs in a region, many of which provide long-term below-market capital for permanent improvements in rural areas. Read more »

The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge! Summer Fun that Helps Kids Learn

This is a screen capture from the Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge online game for kids. The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge teaches moms and children about healthy habits and provides practical ways they can incorporate them.

This is a screen capture from the Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge online game for kids. The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge teaches moms and children about healthy habits and provides practical ways they can incorporate them.

It’s summer time! And kids’ thoughts naturally turn to ways to have fun and enjoy themselves! Moms, on the other hand, want kids to continue to learn and develop their skills while they enjoy the lazy days of summer.  The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge is an online game that meets the needs of moms and kids. The game inspires kids to jump into good nutrition and have fun while learning. It also helps kids to make good food choices and encourages them to be physically active between events to warm them up for the next challenge and to celebrate!

In this online game from USDA, kids pick their player and progress through four track and field events including the javelin, high jump, long jump, and the dash. To win, players must quickly pick the right answer to questions about healthy eating and nutrition. As players advance from one event to the next, they are encouraged to be active: “Now jump up and down five times to celebrate!” When kids answer correctly, their players get a medal at the end of the game. Questions are randomly selected so kids can play multiple times to get a better score or “go for the gold” on the winner’s stand. Read more »

Forest Service Hosts National Boy Scout Jamboree

Boy Scouts work on pulp and paper merit badge at the Forest Service exhibit. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Boy Scouts work on pulp and paper merit badge at the Forest Service exhibit. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Did you know the U.S. Forest Service has a long connection to the Boy Scouts of America? Roughly 78 percent of Forest Service employees were Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts in their youth; and many scouting projects, including Eagle Scout projects, take place on national forests or grasslands.

“The Boy Scouts of America is a longtime valued partner of the Forest Service,” said DeVela J. Clark, deputy forest supervisor on the Monongahela National Forest. “Scouts have assisted our National Forests and Grasslands with numerous conservation service projects across the country.”

The Forest Service has been a part of the National Boy Scout Jamboree since 1964, when the Jamboree was held at Valley Forge, Pa. Read more »