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Makeover Your Holiday Meals with MyPlate! – Week 1

A Classic Holiday Favorite: Sarah’s Green Bean Casserole

A Classic Holiday Favorite: Sarah’s Green Bean Casserole

The holiday season has finally arrived! It’s time to find your favorite family recipes and start cooking! While many of our favorite dishes help us to remember and celebrate special times, choosing healthier options can be a challenge. Let MyPlate help you find solutions with “MyPlate Holiday Makeovers.” During our eight-week series, you’ll find ways to celebrate the season with great new resources such as recipes, a new infographic, and tips for preparing your holiday feast. Read more »

In Case You Missed It: Study Finds Offering Healthier School Snacks Helps Kids Make Healthier Choices at Home

Last week, researchers from Michigan State University, Oakland University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Education came out with a new study showing that when schools offer healthier snacks in vending machines and a la carte lines, students’ overall diets improve. Students in schools that offered healthier snacks consumed more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and not just at school—at home, too.

This is encouraging news for schools and school nutrition professionals as they begin implementing the Smart Snacks in School standards, which will ensure that students are offered healthier food options during the school day. Smart Snacks in School requires more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein, while still leaving plenty of room for tradition, like homemade birthday treats and bake sale fundraisers. Read more »

Let’s Talk Turkey about USDA Poultry Grades

A guide to USDA poultry grades, labeling terms and cooking tips. Click to view a larger version.

A guide to USDA poultry grades, labeling terms and cooking tips. Click to view a larger version.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it is the perfect time to learn more about the quality grade standards for poultry products and the “Grade A” shield you might find on the label of your family’s main dish.  Most consumers are familiar with the USDA beef grades – Prime, Choice and Select.  But did you know USDA has similar grade standards for Poultry products?

The USDA grade shields are reputable symbols of quality American poultry products.  Large-volume buyers such as grocery stores, military institutions, restaurants, and even foreign governments use the quality grades as a common “language” within the poultry industry, making business transactions easier. Read more »

It’s a Great Weekend to go to a National Forest to Watch for Meteors

The Perseid meteor showers put on a fantastic light show for star gazers. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The Perseid meteor showers put on a fantastic light show for star gazers. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Earlier this year, approximately 80 people oohed and ahhed as meteors streaked across the sky from all directions over Shasta Lake during the Perseid meteor showers. In partnership with the Shasta Astronomy Club, the Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area provided visitors with expert information on celestial objects and events and a guided tour through the night sky.

This weekend, you have an opportunity to do the same when the 2013 Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, Nov. 16 into the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 17.  According to NASA, Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves debris in its wake. Many of these have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.  Unfortunately for meteor watchers, this year a full moon will likely wash out all but the very brightest Leonids. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: All Americans Benefit from Local and Regional Markets

One very important reason for Congress to expedite work toward a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is to continue today’s rapid growth in local and regional marketing opportunities for American agriculture.

From local farmers markets to regional food hubs, these new opportunities benefit a wide range of Americans from all walks of life.

They benefit farmers and ranchers who are looking to start selling locally or scale up to regional sales. Farmers markets and regional food hubs have a particularly positive impact for small and limited-resource producers. Sales of local foods are growing rapidly, creating a multibillion-dollar market opportunity for producers. Read more »

Drought Stricken Areas to Benefit from USDA, NOAA-Led Initiative

The Ramirez Viejo Ranch in Penitas, Texas is a decades-old ranch. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The Ramirez Viejo Ranch in Penitas, Texas is a decades-old ranch. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

While addressing the effects of the 2012 drought, USDA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal partners are preparing proactively for the next one.

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration today announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy.

Spearheaded by USDA and NOAA, members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership will coordinate the delivery of Federal Government policies, programs, information and tools designed to help communities plan for and respond to drought. Other partners in this effort include the Department of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more »