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Empowering Students to Make the Healthy Choice the Right Choice

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Victoria Wittrock, Food Service Supervisor, West Central School District, South Dakota

I’ve seen a lot of great changes come about in the West Central School District since the implementation of the new school meal pattern in 2012, and I’m very grateful for the process we’ve gone through.

The changes in the younger kids have been the most noticeable. Exposing them to more fruits and vegetables has been really exciting. When we first began introducing new fruits and vegetables, I was surprised that some kids had never had cantaloupe or honeydew melons. Now, I go to the local market and I see students there pointing out fruits and vegetables and telling their parents, “Mom, Dad, you’ve got to try this!” The younger kids now ask me about proteins, grains, and what other types of nutrients they need. Read more »

US Forest Service Keeping Score on Climate Change

The massive Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska's Tongass National Forest is rapidly retreating. In this photo a developing forest can be seen above the glacier illustrating how the Mendenhall landscape is being dramatically altered by climate change. (Photo courtesy of The National Science Foundation, Durelle Scott)

The massive Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska's Tongass National Forest is rapidly retreating. In this photo a developing forest can be seen above the glacier illustrating how the Mendenhall landscape is being dramatically altered by climate change. (Photo courtesy of The National Science Foundation, Durelle Scott)

Day after day we’re seeing more impacts from climate change, and many concerned folks want to know what exactly their government is doing about it. In other words, who’s keeping score on what we’re doing as our climate warms?

With this in mind, the U.S. Forest Service has developed something it calls the Climate Change Performance Scorecard. The scorecard was created as a way for the Forest Service to measure how well it was responding to climate change and to keep track of experiences and best practices so others could learn from them. Read more »

Conventional Tillage Harvests a Haboob, Unhealthy Soils

A powerful dust storm, known as a haboob, blankets a farm near Ritzville, Wash. Photo courtesy of Susan DeWald. Used with permission.

A powerful dust storm, known as a haboob, blankets a farm near Ritzville, Wash. Photo courtesy of Susan DeWald. Used with permission.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and state Soil and Water Conservation Districts has partnered for decades on protecting, restoring and enhancing private lands across the United States. Jim Armstrong is communications and special projects coordinator with the Spokane County Conservation District in Washington. – Jennifer VanEps, NRCS Washington

Haboob: a funny word, but its meaning is far from laughable. Defined as a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric current, haboobs can have catastrophic effects on both land and life.

Dry August winds often stir up dust clouds in central and eastern Washington, but 2014 was exceptional. On Aug. 12, an enormous, miles-wide haboob, which was reminiscent of those from the Dust Bowl era, descended upon eastern Washington. Two weeks later, another dust cloud caused a 50-car pile-up in the southern part of the state, sending multiple people to the hospital and shutting down Interstate 82. Read more »

Co-op Provides Help for Premature Babies, Generates Income for Moms

The creation of this cooperative and its clearly defined values is definitely an encouragement to myself as a mother, OB nurse, and woman. The future of babies, mothers, and families will benefit greatly from the MMC!” says co-op member Anna Marie Nieboer, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

The creation of this cooperative and its clearly defined values is definitely an encouragement to myself as a mother, OB nurse, and woman. The future of babies, mothers, and families will benefit greatly from the MMC!” says co-op member Anna Marie Nieboer, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Note: This is one in a series of entries USDA is posting to our blog in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.

Mothers Milk Cooperative (MMC) is believed to be the first cooperative in the country that aggregates and markets human milk. The cooperative was incorporated in 2012 to achieve two major objectives: Read more »

Soil Health Campaign Turns Two: Seeks to Unlock Benefits on- and off-the-Farm

Ohio farmer David Brandt farms with soil health in mind, making his place perfect to launch NRCS’ “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign. USDA photo.

Ohio farmer David Brandt farms with soil health in mind, making his place perfect to launch NRCS’ “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign. USDA photo.

Two years ago, at the farm of soil health pioneer Dave Brandt in Carroll, Ohio, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officially launched the “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.” The Brandt Farm was a fitting birthplace for a soil health education and awareness effort, since Brandt has been a leader, advocate and teacher of soil health principles for nearly three decades.

He continues to dedicate much of his time and energy to teaching farmers and others about the basics and benefits of soil health. And speaking of benefits, healthy soil is loaded with them. Read more »

Celebrating America’s Newest National Monument: The San Gabriel Mountains

Today, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish 346,177 acres of USDA National Forest land in the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California as a national monument, permanently protecting the popular outdoor recreation destination to increase access and outdoor opportunities for the area’s residents.  For more information on USDA and Forest Service involvement go to the website or read the White House Blog posted here.

Cross-posted from the White House Blog:

Today, President Obama will travel to Los Angeles County, California to designate the San Gabriel Mountains as America’s newest national monument, and a timeless piece of our national heritage. In many ways, this nation’s story is etched into its land, and as the President is recognizing today, each of our monuments provides us with an important cultural bridge between our past and our future.

In his time in office, President Obama has preserved more than 3 million acres of public land, and he’s not done yet. Natural treasures like the San Gabriel Mountains are not only remarkably beautiful, as they frame the Los Angeles Skyline, but with this new designation, they will bring even more tangible benefits to the 15 million people who live in their shadow. Tourism in the area will be strengthened, as will local businesses as hikers, bikers, outdoor adventurists, and nature lovers make their way to enjoy all 346,177 acres receiving the President’s new designation. Read more »