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What Kept Food Security from Improving After the Recession?

The Economic Research Service examined why lower unemployment in the post-recession period was not matched by gains in food security among U.S. households. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Economic Research Service examined why lower unemployment in the post-recession period was not matched by gains in food security among U.S. households. Photo credit: Shutterstock

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

USDA’s annual survey on food security among American households showed, not unexpectedly, that the prevalence of food insecurity increased during the 2007-09 recession. In the post-recession period, the highest monthly unemployment rate dropped from 10 percent in 2009-10 to 8.3 percent in 2012. But the rosier employment picture was matched by very little improvement in the level of food insecurity – i.e., households’ lack of consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy lives. The national prevalence of food security was 14.5 percent in 2012, essentially the same as in 2009 and 2010. What could be the explanation? Read more »

Letters to Smokey Bear Reveal Promise of Hope for the Future

For 70 years, children and adults have written to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service symbol for wildfire prevention. So many letters were sent in the 1960s that the U.S. Postal Service authorized a ZIP code – 20252 – just for Smokey. (U.S. Forest Service)

For 70 years, children and adults have written to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service symbol for wildfire prevention. So many letters were sent in the 1960s that the U.S. Postal Service authorized a ZIP code – 20252 – just for Smokey. (U.S. Forest Service)

Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for 70 years, is for many people a comforting symbol of a promise that everything will be okay. As long as we all work together, as one of Smokey’s young pen pals wrote recently.

“Dear Smokey: I would like to be a Junior Forest Ranger and help the big rangers. I promise to look after the forest and watch out for baddies making fires and damaging trees. Love Adam”

The letters come one-by-one or in neatly piled stacks, with carefully drawn portraits and hastily scrawled letters. They want to know if Smokey Bear is okay. They ask if he can write to them. They show compassion, knowing Smokey’s mother did not make it out of the fire. Read more »

USDA Meteorologist Talks With Producers “In the Field”

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Ever wonder how USDA is able to make a forecast – either economic or weather?  It takes a lot of work.

Last week, USDA’s U.S. meteorologist Brad Rippey met with producers in southwestern Michigan. The first stop, on a rainy, stormy morning, was with Bryan Bixby, owner of Bixby Orchards in Berrien Springs.  Bixby described how spring wetness has been detrimental to fieldwork and crop quality.  For example, wet, humid conditions shortened the southwestern Michigan strawberry season and reduced fruit quality.  In addition, wetness has impeded Bixby’s efforts to complete soybean planting.  During a tour of his orchards, Bixby described how the recent winter was Michigan’s harshest since 1976-77, causing substantial mortality in peach trees — requiring him to buy peaches from South Carolina in order to meet customer demand. Read more »

What’s On Your Plate This Fourth of July?

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Happy Birthday America! It’s the Fourth of July and time to celebrate American life. What do you have planned? A family reunion at the beach? A backyard barbeque with family and friends? A picnic in the park? Or a few friends on your patio? Here are some quick and easy tips to make your family’s Fourth of July meals and snacks healthy and delicious!

Get creative and let MyPlate be your guide. Read more »

Employment and Mentoring Opportunities Support Youth and Veteran Programs Across the U.S.

A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)

A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)

Agnes Mukagasana, an eager, next-generation youth involved in conservation, paused for a moment to adjust her hat in the afternoon Colorado sun and assess her well-honed tree-planting technique.

She learned her skills as an employee of Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to the sustained improvement of the physical environment through community-based partnerships including federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

Mukagasana and other area youth recently took part in a ceremony where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior joined representatives of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other partners at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The ceremony announced $6.7 million in joint USDA, Department of Interior and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands around the country as part of the President’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative. Read more »

Eat It to Beat It – 2014 Garlic Mustard Challenge

A Petersburg (Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

A Petersburg (Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

Spring is often associated with ramps, rain, flowers and frogs, but on the Monongahela National Forest, the season of rebirth is focused on protecting our woods from garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant first brought to America by European settlers in the 1800s. They enjoyed eating it because of its zesty garlic-like flavor. They just had no idea that this plant would become one of the biggest threats to the diversity of plants and animals found in our eastern forests.

In an effort to fight the spread of this invasive species, the Monongahela, along with several partners, hosts an annual Garlic Mustard Challenge to increase public awareness about the threat of non-native invasive species and to achieve boots-on-the-ground results.  Last year, elementary school students in Grant County, West Virginia, removed more than 13,000 pounds of garlic mustard from the Monongahela. Read more »