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Farm to School: We Are Here to Help!

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.

One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Family Farmers Do More Than Feed the World

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack posted a guest column on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations blog in honor of World Food Day. The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

The headlines today can often seem bleak: worries of terrorism, global health, climate change, drought and hunger dominate the news cycle. These are extraordinarily complex and challenging issues that will impact and forever transform the lives of future generations.

Solving them is not simply about military or economic might. While they are not always fully appreciated and recognized for their capacity to address these challenges, I believe the role that agriculture and family farmers can play is significant. Read more »

Trade Show Helps Firms Capitalize on Growing Indian Appetite for U.S. Products

Bev Flaten, of JM Grain, shows Tom Vajda, the U.S. Consul General for Mumbai, products she is showcasing at the Annapoorna World of Food India trade show.

Bev Flaten, of JM Grain, shows Tom Vajda, the U.S. Consul General for Mumbai, products she is showcasing at the Annapoorna World of Food India trade show.

Breaking into a new market can be a challenge for a business – especially if that market is half a world away, with a different culture and language. But there is help available. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has offices across the globe that assist American agricultural businesses with exporting and navigating international markets.

One goal of our office here in Mumbai is to help U.S. producers do business in India. For example, we help American exporters find reliable buyers, follow technical regulations, and negotiate cultural and business practices. We also provide them with research on market trends and other valuable market intelligence. Read more »

Celebrating Old North State Agriculture

North Carolina sells the largest number of Christmas trees east of the Mississippi River – along with lots of agricultural products.  Check back next Thursday for more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and another state spotlight!

North Carolina sells the largest number of Christmas trees east of the Mississippi River – along with lots of agricultural products. Check back next Thursday for more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and another state spotlight!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Today is a special day in North Carolina. It’s the first day of our state fair, marking 147th time we’re celebrating the rich history of North Carolina and pay tribute to our local agriculture.

Farming has always been a major part of North Carolina culture and as the recent Census of Agriculture results showed, our farmers continue to hold one of the leading positions in the nation. In 2012, our state ranked #1 in the United States in poultry and egg sales at more than $4.8 billion. That year there were more than 160 million birds in the state. Read more »

Farm-to-School and School Nutrition Programs: Dedicated to Serving Healthy Fresh Food

Dunbar Elementary School students enjoying fresh, local strawberries during Delaware's Strawberry week.

Dunbar Elementary School students enjoying fresh, local strawberries during Delaware's Strawberry week.

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 Nancy R. Mears, Supervisor of School Nutrition, Delaware

Farm to School (F2S) means different things to different people depending on where you live in the country. In Delaware, utilizing F2S to source local produce allows Laurel School District to meet the fruit and vegetable requirements of the new meal pattern outlined by federal guidelines for school meals. With a little creativity, we found these guidelines can be met with this valuable resource.

Delaware’s Farm to School Program unifies 19 school districts and assists all schools in purchasing local products. F2S is an economic benefit to Delaware farmers, as well as its economy and agricultural industry. Read more »

Federal Employees Help to Knock Out Hunger

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

AMS Deputy Associate Administrator Karen Comfort, Feds Feeds Families’ 2014 National Program Manager, tells the crowd that the campaign delivered 14.8 million pounds of donated food that went to food banks and pantries across the country.

When I became National Program Manager for the 2014 Feds Feeds Families campaign—the sixth annual, nationwide food drive of Federal employees—I challenged Federal employees nationwide to help knock out hunger by supporting this year’s initiative.  I had every confidence that our Nation’s civil servants would step up in a huge way.  Feds have a tradition of generosity and answering the call whenever, wherever, and however they are needed.  Even so, this year’s results far exceeded my expectations:  14.8 million pounds of donated food went to food banks and pantries across the country.  That’s 7,400 tons of food this year.

Since 2009, the campaign has donated almost 39 million pounds of food to families and individuals in need.  All Federal agencies across the country participated.  Federal employees donated both perishable and non-perishable food items throughout the summer.  This year Feds Feed Families also encouraged employees to take advantage of gleaning (clearing fields of unused produce). Read more »