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FNS Requests Feedback to Strengthen Program Integrity, Improve Technology

SNAP EBT cards

FNS is looking for ways to increase competition in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is committed to supporting struggling families and helping the most vulnerable Americans put food on the table.  Today, over 60 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants are children, elderly, or have disabilities.   The WIC program – officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – plays a vital role in the health of low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children during critical periods of growth and development.

So it’s no surprise that we’re dedicated to ensuring participants have efficient access to programs essential to their health and well-being.  To this end, FNS is looking for ways to increase competition in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, the process by which most benefits are redeemed.  All SNAP state and local agencies and some WIC agencies conduct EBT using magnetic stripe cards similar to debit or credit cards.  By FY 2021, all WIC agencies will be required to use EBT. Read more »

Feed Thy Neighbor: South LA Youth Use Neighborhood Gardens to Educate, Better Community Health

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, showing off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, shows off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens. Salako was recently accepted to Pitzer College after writing an essay about his experiences with this community food project.

It began with the desire of a group of South Los Angeles high school students to increase access to more effective nutrition education at their school.  They started small—a monthly guest speaker, bags of veggies, cutting boards, and nutrition education. Now, their efforts have blossomed and manifested into RootDownLA, a community food project operating in three South Los Angeles neighborhoods with the help of the youth participants, referred to as Cultivars.

As a recipient of a $226,705 Community Food Project grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), this youth-driven organization works closely with members of the community to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and provide access to more quality food. The major encouragement of all of RootDown LA’s activities is for people to choose to eat good food. Read more »

Lessons Learned from Farm to Summer Successes

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoying locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites

Children in Kalispell, Mont., enjoy locally sourced meals as well as time in the garden at SFSP sites. Photo credit: Jessica Manly, FoodCorps service member

As the school year draws to a close, many program operators that help keep our nation’s children nourished and active are just ramping up. When school is out, many school districts and an array of nonprofit partners step up to offer healthy summer meals through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option.  Options that provide children who rely on free and reduced price meals access to the nutrition they need to return to school healthy and ready to learn.

With the warm summer sunshine and the sweet taste of the season’s bounty here, it’s a great time to reflect upon some best practices for a flourishing summer meals program. We’re highlighting three examples that emphasize replicable strategies for bringing local, nutritious foods and educational activities to children throughout the long summer break. Read more »

Saving the Nation’s Wetlands

Florida wetlands

Florida landowners in the Northern Everglades use conservation easements as a tool to restore their wetlands. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. They clean and recharge groundwater; reduce the damaging impacts of floods; enhance wildlife habitat; sequester carbon; and create diverse recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and canoeing.

Thousands of landowners voluntarily take big and small actions every day to protect, restore and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s wetlands are located on private and tribal lands. Read more »

4 Innovations You Must Read to Believe from USDA’s Tech Transfer Report

A bowl of peanuts

People who suffer from peanut and wheat allergies may soon find relief thanks to USDA funded research.

The release of the USDA’s 2014 Technology Transfer Report highlights the groundbreaking discoveries made by USDA researchers, who continue to push the envelope and come up with new and exciting innovations. The scientific advancements in knowledge and the creation of new technologies directly impact Americans in that they create safer environments and provide efficient solutions for a wide range of issues. Here are just four of the transformative innovations that can be found in the USDA Tech Transfer Report: Read more »

With USDA Help, Farmers Market Goes Uptown

Uptown City Market graphic

AMS Architect Fidel Delgado is helping design a year-round community gathering place that brings local foods to downtown Greenwood, S.C.

Across the country, from small towns to big cities, a vibrant downtown likely includes a farmers market.  That is exactly what city leaders from Greenwood, S.C., were thinking when they talked about revitalizing their downtown.  The Greenwood City Council voted unanimously to approve a $2.1 million construction bid for a new multi-functional farmers market, the Uptown Market.  The Uptown Market will be 156 feet long and 47 feet wide and a focal point for the community.  The planned site was originally the location of the town’s railroad station and inspired the design that mimics a train station to fit the historical character of the town.

USDA supports partnerships across the country to create greater economic impact for rural Americans.  In 2013, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Architect Fidel Delgado got involved in providing technical assistance for the development of Greenwood’s new farmers market.  With over 20 years of experience, Delgado provided case studies and worked with City Manager Charlie Barrineau to understand the community needs, learn about the area farmers, and review the site. Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams said, “Fidel brought great insight to the project and really helped expedite the process.” Read more »