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Secretary’s Column: Investing in America’s Rural Communities

As producers face an historic and ongoing drought today, President Obama and I are doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers mitigate its effects – while helping communities to overcome the economic challenges posed by the drought.

To carry out our work on behalf of communities and producers, USDA has relied on programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. Parts of that law, including authorization of USDA disaster assistance for livestock producers, expired last year. Other aspects of the law expire on October 1st and over the next few months if Congress fails to act. Read more »

Ask a School Meals Expert: What do the New Calorie Standards Mean for my Child?

You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu.  These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions.  We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.

The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches.  However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs. Read more »

Chef Corps to Help Build Bridges through “Culinary Engagement”

“Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool, but sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Some of the nation’s top chefs have signed on to help promote American food and culinary traditions around the world through the new American Chef Corps. The corps is part of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative, launched earlier this month by the Department of State and the James Beard Foundation. USDA is delighted to support this initiative, which is an excellent complement to our ongoing work highlighting the quality, variety, safety and sustainability of U.S. food products to our customers around the world. Read more »

USDA’s Chief Scientist Woteki Helps Connect Scientists from across the Globe to Meet Global Challenges Facing Food and Agriculture

In an effort to advance food and agricultural research that enables farmers and ranchers to meet the growing global demand for food, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki will lead the U.S. Government’s delegation to the first-ever Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS) in Guadalajara, Mexico this week. Member countries committed to the meeting earlier this year at the June 2012 G-20 Leaders Summit, as a step to gain greater efficiency and utility from global agricultural research investments. The meeting is being convened by the Mexican government as part of their role heading the Group of Twenty (G-20) this year.

“Over the next 50 years, we will need to produce as much food for the world’s population as has been produced in the entire history of mankind,” said Woteki, who is also USDA’s Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. “A challenge this serious and urgent requires bringing together the best minds in food and agricultural science to chart our course on research. This meeting is the first of its kind, and I believe it is the beginning of a collaboration that will benefit scientists, farmers, and citizens around the world.” Read more »

Recognizing Champions of Change: Strengthening Food Security at Home and Abroad

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of congratulating 11 extraordinary individuals being recognized through the White House Champions of Change program for their work to tackle hunger in the United States and abroad.

The Champions recognized today are making improved access to healthy food a reality for millions of individuals in need. Innovative programs like the Community Food Advocates in New York City, Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables in Chicago, and the Mandela Marketplace in Oakland, California are helping to empower families and communities and reducing the depth and severity of hunger in America. And the work of organizations like Thriive, Fort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, and Catholic Medical Mission Board are taking on the fight against hunger worldwide. Read more »

1 Million People Using USDA SuperTracker to Monitor Diet and Physical Activity Goals

One of the SuperTracker team members, Sarah Chang, nutritionist, enthusiastically demos the SuperTracker site. Photo by Sasha Bard

One of the SuperTracker team members, Sarah Chang, nutritionist, enthusiastically demos the SuperTracker site. Photo by Sasha Bard

The Agriculture Department announced this week that SuperTracker, an interactive diet and activity tracking tool, reached one million registered users. SuperTracker, maintained by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), is a free online application. Users can choose from a wide variety of features ranging from quickly looking up the nutrient information for a food to in-depth diet and activity tracking.  For example, users can track their vegetable intake, estimate how many calories they burn in their aerobics class, and track their weight loss over time. Read more »