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Change You Can Taste: School Lunch Program Gets a Makeover

The Patriot High School cafeteria in Nokesville, Va.  Students and parents from the Prince William County School District were invited to the annual food tasting to sample some potential items on the school menu. Photo by Hakim Fobia, AMS

The Patriot High School cafeteria in Nokesville, Va. Students and parents from the Prince William County School District were invited to the annual food tasting to sample some potential items on the school menu. Photo by Hakim Fobia, AMS

When you walk around many of the nation’s cafeterias, you will notice that plenty of changes have taken place on school lunch menus. Thanks to new standards and other efforts by the USDA, the lunches for our children have become healthier.

The new standards, which were implemented for the 2012-2013 school year, made significant improvements to the National School Lunch Program. Some of the changes include offering only fat-free or low-fat milk options, ensuring that fruits and vegetables are served every day of the week, and increasing the amount of whole grain-rich foods on menus. Read more »

USDA Helps “Cultivate” a Flourishing Agriculture College with a Community Facilities Loan

They’re known far and wide as The Fighting Quakers.

The irony isn’t lost on the fiercely proud students and alumni of Ohio’s historic Wilmington College. Founded in 1870 by the Religious Society of Friends, Wilmington College is the “warp and woof” of rural Clinton County; its largest employer since a huge delivery company suspended domestic operations in 2008, leaving nearly 10,000 people across seven counties without jobs. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Research Shows that Kids Like Healthy Options

The U.S. Department of Agriculture works every day to improve childhood nutrition and combat obesity in order to raise a healthier generation of Americans.

In recent days, we have had some positive developments in this work.  USDA released a promising new report on the impacts of providing our children with healthy snacks. We also took new steps to provide families with better information to combat obesity. Read more »

A Tale of Alaskan Winter Weather Explains Current, Changing Landscapes

Two yellow cedar trees have fallen victim to the yellow cedar decline; the smaller tree on the right recently died, the larger tree on the left is slowly dying. U.S. Forest Service photo by Mary Stensvold.

Two yellow cedar trees have fallen victim to the yellow cedar decline; the smaller tree on the right recently died, the larger tree on the left is slowly dying. U.S. Forest Service photo by Mary Stensvold.

Yellow-cedar is an ecologically, culturally, and economically important tree species in the coastal temperate rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia. This slow-growing tree has few natural insect and disease agents and is capable of living more than 1000 years.

But less snow in Alaska’s winters is leading to the demise of yellow cedar trees at and just above sea level. During hard freezes when little or no snow is on the ground to insulate the yellow cedar’s shallow roots, the roots freeze. Ultimately this leads to the tree’s death. This yellow cedar decline has occurred over the past 100 years. Read more »

Break Away with the Kids for Spring Outdoor Activities

Make spring break fun for you and the kids with a scavenger hunt for such things as deer or birds. US Forest Service photo.

Make spring break fun for you and the kids with a scavenger hunt for such things as deer or birds. US Forest Service photo.

Spring is here, and spring break is just around the corner or already underway. For parents everywhere trying to figure out how to keep their children amused, the answer can be simple: Get them outside!

Spring is a great time to watch birds collect materials to build nests or to check out the buds as trees and shrubs begin to bloom and leaf out. It’s also a time to see those early blooms that often lay soft carpets of color across the landscape. Read more »

Forest Service Helps Restore Fish to Oregon Stream

After nearly a century, a five-mile stretch of the Lower Oak Grove Fork of Oregon’s Clackamas River will have native fish swimming year-round in this restored stream once again.

Early in the 20th century, the growing communities around Portland needed hydroelectric power. The Oak Grove Fork dam, located in the foothills of the Cascade Range some 30 miles east of the city, was one of several in the region built to help fill that need.

Unfortunately, by impounding the steam’s water and diverting it for power generation, the river was denied its natural seasonal rise and fall which hindered the movement and spawning of fish. Read more »