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Don’t be a Zombie – Prepare for Emergencies

Purdue Extension’s “Don’t Be a Zombie” exhibit

Purdue Extension’s “Don’t Be a Zombie” exhibit is traveling the country to illustrate the need to prepare for emergencies. Photo by Abby Hostetler

In this guest blog, Abby Hostetler urges people to prepare for emergencies and describes an innovative display that Purdue Extension used at the Indiana State Fair to drive home that point. 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 because you just don’t know when disasters will impact your community.

By Abby Hostetler, EDEN Disaster Communications Specialist, Purdue University

Nearly 60,000 visitors to this year’s Indiana State Fair encountered zombies lurking around in the corners. Actually, they saw cartoon zombies that were part of an interactive exhibit, Don’t Be a Zombie – Be Prepared. The exhibit consists of a walk-though maze and interactive video game designed to simulate a zombie apocalypse.

The goal is to help families learn about disaster preparedness in a fun way. In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched their Zombie Preparedness campaign to much acclaim and success. The CDC campaign was a gory take on zombies and aimed at a teenage demographic. Once the Extension Disaster Emergency Network (EDEN) got permission from the CDC to adapt the materials into an interactive display, Purdue Extension used third grade classrooms to help tie into the rise of the zombie fad in pop culture while still keeping the materials friendly to all ages. Read more »

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it’s anything but “class as usual.” Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs. Read more »

Knowledge and Passion: A Student Intern’s Perspective

National Scholar Atiya Stewart

National Scholar Atiya Stewart cultivated her passions through internships.

I’m not sure that there are many 1890 National Scholar interns who are “ambassadors” of their university and who are planning a career in farming. But then, I never considered myself an average student. My experience during my undergraduate years perhaps is not typical. Not only was I a USDA 1890 National Scholar, but I also served as the “queen” of my university all while maintaining a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.

Though I never envisioned myself at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, my undergraduate experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter where you attend school. What matters is how hard you work, getting an education and taking advantage of opportunities. The most important opportunities that I made sure I’d take advantage of as an undergraduate student were internships, which I believe are imperative for students to undertake prior to graduating. Read more »

Local Foods in Schools Bring Rural Communities Together

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce from the garden.

From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.

To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities. Read more »

USDA Graded Cage-Free Eggs: All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Certified Egg Facts infographic

AMS verifies cage-free claims for shell eggs by visiting the farms twice each year to ensure that the eggs are in fact coming from a cage-free flock. (Click to view a larger version)

When it comes to purchasing eggs, consumers have interests that go well beyond what they see in the carton.  For many buyers, where that egg came from and how it was produced are just as important as the finished product.  Organic, locally produced, cage-free, and free range are just a few of the marketing claims consumers will find on the carton, as producers try to communicate the attributes of their product.  To provide additional assurance to their customers of the validity of marketing claims, shell egg producers often enlist the services of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

In recent months, a long list of large volume food buyers – including restaurants, grocers, distributors and more – have announced they will transition to sourcing eggs and egg products only from cage-free production systems.  You can learn more about this trend in a recent USDA Blog post.  Many shell egg suppliers have already found a way to assure customers that products marketed as cage-free are indeed sourced from such systems: when USDA Graded eggs are also identified as cage-free, they must undergo a review process to verify the claim is truthful. Read more »

The Year of the Flood

Psylia King providing application information

Psylia King provides needed application information for D-SNAP benefits in Washington Parish, La.

Incidents described as “thousand year storms and floods” and “the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy” claimed the lives of more than 58 people in Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina over the last year.  These disasters often remind us of the devastating impacts that families and their communities face after they strike.

After emergency life saving operations, food and shelter assistance are the most important priorities with which emergency managers must contend.  It was during these times that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) responded to 22 incidents by providing needed nutrition assistance.  More than half of these disasters involved severe and widespread flooding, including the most recent floods that affected residents in 22 parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more »