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Kicking Off National Summer Food Service Program Week: Closing the Summer Meal Gap

Today marks the 2nd annual National Summer Food Service Program Kick Off Week (June 11-15).  During the school year, more than 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs.  But when school is out, many low-income kids relying on these school meals, go hungry.  To close that gap, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps children get the nutritious meals they need during the summer months so they’re ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.

A teen attending the summer food service site at the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Garden City, Idaho enjoys a healthy snack.

A teen attending the summer food service site at the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Garden City, Idaho enjoys a healthy snack.

This week, we’ll be sharing SFSP information through Twitter, blogs, and a variety of National Summer Food Service Program kick-off events throughout the country.  Our children’s continued ability to learn, grow up healthy, and reach their full potential will depend on what we do now to secure their future. Read more »

Cutting-edge Technology to Make Traditional Favorites Even Better

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.

Fresh corn and homegrown tomatoes are as much a part of the traditional American scene as apple pie.  Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have applied cutting-edge technology to learn more about these longtime favorites and, in the long run, make them even better.

As part of an international consortium of 300 researchers, ARS scientists recently sequenced the genome of the domesticated tomato.  This achievement is expected to lower production costs and speed up efforts to improve the United States’ $2 billion tomato crop, making the plant better equipped to combat the pests, pathogens, drought and diseases that now plague growers. That’s good news for tomato fans, because since 2000, Americans have been consuming an average of 19 pounds of tomatoes per person every year. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Healthy, Affordable Meals for Our Children This Summer

As final school bells ring and students across our nation start summer break, the last thing on a parent’s mind should be how they’re going to provide nutritious meals for a child.

During the school year, USDA plays an integral role in being sure our children have enough to eat. Through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, USDA helps families by providing nutritious school meals to 32 million kids each day.

But when school’s out for the summer, low-income families can have trouble providing food for their children. Read more »

As Bats Swoop, Students Swoon to Learn More About Them During USDA Webcast

Consider the bat – you know, the flying type that swoops out of urban eaves or rural caves usually at dawn or dusk. What do you know about the central roles they play in controlling insect populations, balancing ecosystems or pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables?

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's, Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Last week, students in grades four through eight and educators from around the country did more than just consider the bat. They met a number of live bats via an hour-long Washington, D.C., Bats!LIVE distance learning seminar (view online video) including a little brown bat, a vampire bat and a straw-colored fruit bat with a six-foot wingspan. They asked questions of bat biologists, learned about threats to bats and what everyone can do to help bats in their own communities. Read more »

People’s Garden in Tipton, Iowa Celebrates USDA’s 150th Anniversary by Growing “Abraham Lincoln” Tomatoes

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

Tipton’s Hardacre Community Garden was recognized as a USDA “People’s Garden” in 2009.  The public is welcome to see this People’s Garden on Saturday, June 9th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Read more »

Construction Begins on a Rural Kansas Fire Station with Financing from USDA and an Electric Cooperative

The City of Quinter, Kansas, had a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fire station earlier this month.  All of the city’s fire equipment will soon be under one roof, which will help improve the fire station’s efficiencies when crews respond to emergencies in its 400 square mile service area.  The new station is being built with funding support from USDA and a local electric cooperative.

Earlier this month, the City of Quinter, Kansas, celebrated the groundbreaking of a new fire station with city employees, members of the volunteer fire department, USDA Rural Development staff, and representatives from Midwest Energy and Quinter Manufacturing & Construction (QMC). This photo was taken by a USDA employee.

Earlier this month, the City of Quinter, Kansas, celebrated the groundbreaking of a new fire station with city employees, members of the volunteer fire department, USDA Rural Development staff, and representatives from Midwest Energy and Quinter Manufacturing & Construction (QMC). This photo was taken by a USDA employee.

According to City of Quinter Administrator, Ericka Gillespie, the city of less than 1,000 needed a new fire station because the old facility was not meeting the needs of the community.  A larger space was needed for training, storage, and additional fire protection equipment and trucks.  The larger fire station will also improve the department’s fire rating, resulting in lower insurance costs. Read more »