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Strengthening Produce Businesses, One Program at a Time

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.

Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »

Representing #womeninag: A Google Hangout in Celebration of National Ag Day

Join Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden on Wednesday March 18 at 2 p.m. for a Google Hangout with Dr. Linda Young, Chief Mathematical Statistician and Director of Research and Development of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Marji Guyler-Alaniz, photographer and founder of FARMHER as we celebrate women farmers and ranchers on National Ag Day. You can tune in at www.usda.gov/live.

The Census of Agriculture counts nearly one million women working on America’s farms and ranches. These statistics are crucial for our understanding of women in agriculture.  However,  they only tell a fraction of the story. They might not capture women who are working the farm although the property is in someone else’s name.  They might not reflect the younger women who are just getting started in farming, or the older generation of women who are ready to transition their land to the next generation. Read more »

Child and Adult Care Food Program Reaches Far and Wide

USDA programs like CACFP help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.

USDA programs like CACFP help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.

During National Nutrition Month, we’re excited to highlight the many ways federal nutrition assistance programs benefit vulnerable Americans.

At USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, we often get the chance to discuss how WIC and our school lunch and breakfast programs boost the nutritional lives of millions.  But did you know that each day our Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides over 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults nutritious meals and snacks that contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development? Read more »

NIFA Debuts New Redesigned Public Website for Ease of Users

Recently, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) launched its redesigned website.  The agency’s web team has worked for the past year to design a site that will make access to information about NIFA’s grants and programs easier than ever.  The new website is compatible with a variety of mobile devices so today’s busy users can get their information on-the-go.

“This web revision comes at a time when most Americans, including farmers and other agricultural professionals, find resources online.  The new website is user-friendly and offers excellent search tools, thus, making information easily accessible,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. Read more »

A Student’s View: Healthier School, Brighter Future

Fresh vegetable cups prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Fresh vegetable cups prepared for the National School Lunch Program at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

The following guest blog from a Nebraska high school student is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting healthy meals in schools and the impact of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank these students, parents, teachers, and school nutrition professionals for sharing their stories!

By Morgan Ryan, student, Firth, Nebraska

When I started my sophomore year at Norris High School in Firth, Nebraska, I was unhealthy and both my self-confidence and grades suffered as a result. I averaged C’s in most of my classes and pretty much kept to myself at school. Read more »

Partnership, Technology Help Forge a Healthier Next Generation

Text2BHealthy nutrition educator Lynn Rubin signs up another parent at Washington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md. during the school’s Fun and Fitness Spring Fair.

Text2BHealthy nutrition educator Lynn Rubin signs up another parent at Washington Grove Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md. during the school’s Fun and Fitness Spring Fair.

We all benefit from creative partnership.  It’s especially true when some very savvy people leverage USDA Food and Nutrition Service programs to fight hunger and improve nutrition.  Text2BHealthy is one such example, where the University of Maryland-led program uses popular technology to inspire healthy eating habits for low-income families.

Established three years ago by the University of Maryland Extension, Text2BHealthy links in-school nutrition programs to healthy behaviors at home. Using USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) education funds to underwrite the program, text messages are sent to parents about nutrition lessons, food tastings, and events taking place during the school day. The messages also highlight seasonal foods and recipes, as well as ways to create healthy meals at home.  It even helps identify sales on local fruits and vegetables! Read more »