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Lower-fat French Fries? You Bet!

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Americans love, love, love their spuds:  In 2010, per capita consumption of potatoes in the U.S. hit almost 114 pounds, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. One of our favorite ways to dish up this versatile veggie is in the form of French fries.

Of course, deep-frying those potato slices to golden crispness adds extra calories from the oil.  But what if you could indulge your French fry craving with fewer calories? And what if the technique to achieve that was more environmentally friendly than conventional fry preparation? Read more »

Nationwide Census on Farm to School Activities Shows Promising Results

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. And when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.

Good news: these healthy habits are taking root all across the country.

USDA released today results from a nationwide Census of farm to school activities. We found that 43 percent of all public school districts have an existing farm to school program in place. Another 13 percent of school districts surveyed are committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future. With purchasing local food as a primary farm to school activity, in school year 2011-2012, schools purchased and served over $350 million in local food. Read more »

Alaska’s Chugach National Forest Provides a World-Class Training Ground for Olympic Hopefuls

Ski athletes come from all over the world to train on the Chugach National Forest, spending 25 to 30 hours a week in the challenging, variable conditions found on Eagle Glacier. The Alaskan Pacific University operated seven camps, each with about 20 athletes this summer. (Courtesy U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach/Coach Matt Whitcomb)

Ski athletes come from all over the world to train on the Chugach National Forest, spending 25 to 30 hours a week in the challenging, variable conditions found on Eagle Glacier. The Alaskan Pacific University operated seven camps, each with about 20 athletes this summer. (Courtesy U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach/Coach Matt Whitcomb)

America’s elite, Olympic-bound Nordic skiers have a high-altitude secret they hope will give them an edge in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in late February.

Team members take a 10-minute helicopter ride from sea level up to Eagle Glacier on Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, the most northern national forest in the U.S. The environment there mimics what they expect to find in Sochi.

The glacier, 5,500 feet above Girdwood, Alaska, is home to the Thomas Training Center operated under permit by the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center. The ski center was established in the late 1990s as a model for creating international success in American Nordic skiing. Read more »

One Seed at a Time: Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas, New Mexico Helps Restore the Grand Canyon’s South Rim

Grasses grown from the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas line the edge of Mather Point in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Grasses grown from the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas line the edge of Mather Point in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

For more than 20 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been growing seeds for the Grand Canyon National Park and other national parks.

When the National Park Service renovated the Grand Canyon’s South Rim visitor center in 2008, they looked to the NRCS Plants Materials Center in Los Lunas, N.M. to produce the seed needed to restore native grasses in the area.

Now, driving along eight miles of twists and turns of the South Rim, you can see the bright green grasses surrounding the parking lots, roads, and popular viewpoints including Prima Point, Hermit’s Rest and the Bright Angel Trailhead. Read more »

We Still Want to Hear Your #MyFarmBill Stories!

As we get back to work following the lapse in appropriations, USDA remains focused on sharing the importance of Farm Bill programs for all Americans. A Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is critical to growing the rural economy, providing nutrition to families in need, strengthening agricultural research, growing a biobased economy and much more.

Now that we’re back to work, our #MyFarmBill social media campaign is ramping back up, and we need to hear from you! We’re asking agriculture and rural stakeholders from across the nation to continue sharing stories on how #MyFarmBill impacts you – using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other tools. Your input will build on the incredible response we’ve already seen – videos, photos and tweets that you can view here. Read more »

Taste “Tests” at School Introduce Kids to Healthy Choices

Dime Rosser, 7, a student at Clinton Elementary School, takes a look at kale. Photo courtesy of Spencer Ainsley, Poughkeepsie Journal.

Dime Rosser, 7, a student at Clinton Elementary School, takes a look at kale. Photo courtesy of Spencer Ainsley, Poughkeepsie Journal.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told my children, “Go on, give it a try,” or, “Try it, you might like it.” Tired as those two phrases might be, they’re true. How do you know if you like something if you’ve never tried it? And when it comes to leafy green vegetables and third graders, the truth is, many have never tried things like kale, chard or collard greens.

That’s changing as more and more schools hand out a different kind of test. “Taste tests” give children an opportunity to try new, healthy foods and, equally important, they give schools good information about how to introduce healthy, new foods on the school menu. Say for example a school would like to serve butternut squash. Are the kids more likely to eat it when it is pureed or baked? Read more »