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Looking Back While Preparing to Move Forward with Summer Meals

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!

This week is National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week, an important time to emphasize USDA’s commitment to ensure children and teens have access to safe, nutritious meals when school lets out. Through the Summer Food Service Program, federal assistance is provided for state agencies and non-profit sponsors to help children in eligible high-need areas get the proper nutrition they need during the summer when schools are not in session.

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students across the country are getting healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  With more than 90 percent of schools meeting the healthy meal standards, children are getting the nutrition needed to reach their full potential. But poor nutrition during the summer months can also affect children’s academic performance during the school year.  USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. Read more »

Changing the Way 650,000 Students Eat in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Unified School student enjoying tasty new meals.

Los Angeles Unified School student enjoying tasty new meals.

Cross posted from the Let’s Move blog:

The city of Los Angeles is known all around the world for Hollywood, Beverly Hills, celebrities as well as glitz and glamour.  There are more than 125,000 millionaires and more than 20 billionaires in this city I now call home.

But the reality is there is still a big discrepancy in quality of life between the elite and the majority of students I serve as food services director at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the country.

Of the 650,000 students we serve daily, 80 percent qualifies for free and reduced meals, which means the students and their families live in circumstances of poverty.  In addition, 14,000 of our students are certified homeless with no fixed address. Read more »

Trashy Life: Crayfish Turn Rubbish into a Home

Crayfish, like this Procambarus hayi are freshwater crustaceans, and live in rivers and streams. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Lukhaup)

Crayfish, like this Procambarus hayi are freshwater crustaceans, and live in rivers and streams. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Lukhaup)

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.

To raccoons, snakes and opossums, crayfish look pretty tasty, and large crayfish will even cannibalize their smaller kin. Crayfish, which live in rivers and streams, need instream cover to hide from all their predators. They also use cover to find food, to shelter while incubating eggs, and to keep themselves from being washed away in floods.

Susan Adams, a fisheries research scientist for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, examined different types of cover in the Yazoo River basin of Mississippi to see whether crayfish used large pieces of household trash for shelter when natural cover was limited. Her findings recently appeared in the journal Environmental Management. Read more »

Celebrating 90-Plus Years of USDA’s International Activities

Asher Hobson in Rome, who six years later would become the first head of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Asher Hobson in Rome, who six years later would become the first head of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

The modern Foreign Service is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, as is the American Foreign Service Association. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Foreign Service Act into law, combining the United States diplomatic and consular services to create the United States Foreign Service. By that time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had already been posting employees overseas for 42 years.

Thanks to President Coolidge’s curiosity, we possess a rare snapshot of USDA international activities in 1924. On December 22 of that year, Coolidge, in his characteristically laconic style, sent a one-line letter to Secretary of Agriculture Howard Gore: “I shall appreciate it if you will send me as soon as possible a list of the representatives the Department may have abroad, their posts and just what they are doing.”  Surviving copies of urgent correspondence in the National Archives in College Park testify to the flurry of activity that ensued over the next two weeks as a data call went out to all USDA field offices. Read more »

Light Detection and Ranging Helps USDA Pinpoint and Protect Archaeological Mounds

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.

Sometimes to stop soil erosion, prevent nutrient and sediment runoff and improve habitat, conservation work does disturb the ground. Because of this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service relies on its archaeologists on staff to review locations prior to implementing these conservation practices. As the cultural resources specialist for NRCS in Illinois, I’m never quite sure what will turn up in my daily work.

Field investigations by NRCS archaeologists are conducted to look for surface indications of cultural resources, such as historic farm remains, prehistoric artifacts and above-ground structures. I have had opportunities to visit about 2,000 archaeological sites and to record about 400 new sites on private working lands throughout the state. Read more »

With USDA Housing Programs, 3.4 Million Rural Homebuyers Own Their Future

The Riggio family was able to purchase their home in Newville, Pennsylvania, with a loan from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Loan Program.

The Riggio family was able to purchase their home in Newville, Pennsylvania, with a loan from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Loan Program.

As we celebrate National Homeownership Month this June, I am reminded how USDA delivers positive outcomes ‘Every Day, Every Way’ through the comprehensive programs and services that touch the lives of every American. While many people think of USDA in terms of food, farms and forestry, nearly 3.4 million families over the past 65 years have found the affordable financing they needed to become homeowners through USDA Rural Development.

In 2013 alone, more than 170,000 rural residents became homeowners with the help of Rural Development’s direct loans, guaranteed loans, grants and technical assistance. In both people and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year on record in the history of USDA’s single-family housing programs. Read more »