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USDA, Department of Defense, Celebrate the Bounty of Farmers Market

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Earlier this month, USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week to highlight the healthy offerings they provide American families.  The department invests in farmers markets in a myriad of ways – from helping farmers develop their products for markets, to enriching children’s bodies and minds through the “farm to school” program.  In fact, there are more than 8,000 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and more than 5,000 farm stands and farmers markets across the nation are accepting SNAP benefits.

During the month, I had a chance to speak with Lt. Col. Eric Smith, commander of Fort Meade’s (Md.) Headquarters Command Battalion.  We discussed USDA’s partnership with the Department of Defense and supporting the Healthy Base Initiative through FNS programs.  DoD’s Healthy Base Initiative works to improve the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use. Currently, 14 military installations participate in a pilot to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles. Fort Meade is one of them. Read more »

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. Read more »

Moldova’s Agriculture Minister Visits USDA for Round of ‘Conservation Talks’

Members of the Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry listen to a USDA presentation on no-till and minimum-till management programs during a meeting at the Agriculture Department. NRCS photo.

Members of the Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry listen to a USDA presentation on no-till and minimum-till management programs during a meeting at the Agriculture Department. NRCS photo.

Moldova’s minister of agriculture and food industry, Vasile Bumacov, recently visited with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to learn more about no-till and minimum-till systems – and how the agency supports farmers wanting to implement them.

NRCS briefed Minister Bumacov on technical and financial assistance programs that promote the use, by American farmers, of no-till and minimum-till systems, where crops are grown with little soil disturbance and the soil is kept covered with crop residue to conserve soil, water and energy. The assistance from NRCS provides U.S. farmers guidance and funding in putting these systems to work. Read more »

Allergy Sufferers May Soon be Able to Find a Peanut and Eat it Too

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food-related anaphylaxis and affects about 2.8 million Americans, including 400,000 school-aged children.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food-related anaphylaxis and affects about 2.8 million Americans, including 400,000 school-aged children.

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.

Researchers at North Carolina A&T University (NC A&T) are on the verge of leveling the playing field for millions who suffer allergies from peanuts and wheat.  Now, in addition to being able to nosh on some of America’s favorite foods, allergy sufferers may also take advantage of the valuable nutrients these staples provide.

Peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food-related anaphylaxis and affects about 2.8 million Americans, including 400,000 school-aged children.  Wheat is one of the top eight food allergens in the United States. Read more »

Bees Help Native American Students Learn about Math, Science

Native American high school students get “up close and personal” with honey bees at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, as part of their participation in the Native American Summer Institute, a long-running collaboration between the University of Arizona and the bee lab.  The curriculum helps the students learn math and science as they use two of the lab’s computer models to learn about honey bee colony health and develop plans to start a beekeeping business.

Native American high school students get “up close and personal” with honey bees at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, as part of their participation in the Native American Summer Institute, a long-running collaboration between the University of Arizona and the bee lab. The curriculum helps the students learn math and science as they use two of the lab’s computer models to learn about honey bee colony health and develop plans to start a beekeeping business.

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.

There’s nothing like a little “hands-on” activity to help students learn. And what better way to encourage math and science education than to give students an opportunity for the ultimate “hands-on” experience: working with honey bees.

That’s what Native American high school students are doing at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona. At the lab, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), researchers study honey bee nutrition and health to ensure that these insects can effectively pollinate billions of dollars’ worth of fruits and vegetables each year. Read more »

Creative Solutions to Ending School Food Waste

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Our nation’s schools play an important role in reducing food waste. Click to enlarge.

Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000 seat football stadium. Approximately one-third of all food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels.  While research has shown that food wasted by children is similar to the rest of the U.S. population, there are many ways schools can reduce food waste and teach students about the impact it has on the environment and in their community.

At Chesterbrook Elementary School in McClean, VA, every student learns how to separate waste into categories like recyclables, food to be donated, upcycling bins, and general trash.  The school’s Eco Team, run by sixth graders, ensures their fellow students are putting waste into the correct bin. The team then collects, weighs, categorizes, and places the food to be donated into separate refrigerators, provided by the Food Bus, a non-profit organization that works with schools to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. Read more »