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Setting the Record Straight: Healthy School Meal Rules Allow for Bake Sales

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

Several recent media reports have misrepresented how the bi-partisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards will impact school fundraisers like bake sales.

I’d like to set the record straight: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not imposing federal restrictions on bake sales or fundraisers.

USDA has given states complete authority to set policies on fundraisers and bake sales that work for them. States are free to allow fundraisers and bake sales featuring foods and beverages that don’t meet the new standards during the school day if they choose. They, not USDA, are responsible for determining the number and the frequency of these events each year. Read more »

Young Scientists Network, Share Urban Research in New York City

For three days, the Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station served as a home base for scientists participating in a workshop titled, “Urban Natures: Engaging Social Science Perspectives.” (Courtesy Adrina Bardekjian)

For three days, the Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station served as a home base for scientists participating in a workshop titled, “Urban Natures: Engaging Social Science Perspectives.” (Courtesy Adrina Bardekjian)

For young scientists, the years between completing a dissertation and becoming established in your field of research is sometimes an isolating time. The scholarly support of coursework is behind you just at the moment when you have refined your area of expertise.   As a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s New York City Urban Field Station, I wanted to help bridge that gap by fostering a network of young scholars and engaging them in New York City as a living laboratory for urban research.

For three days, the Urban Field Station, located at Fort Totten in Queens, New York City, served as a home base for scientists participating in a workshop titled, “Urban Natures: Engaging Social Science Perspectives.” The workshop was a rare opportunity for Ph.D. candidates and early-career faculty members in disciplines including geography, environmental psychology, natural resource management, and environmental studies, to explore the connections between research and practice in social-ecological systems in a peer-to-peer setting. Read more »

USDA Conservation Plan Helps Florida Ranchers Afford to Protect and Serve a County

John Bushell with one of the horses on his ranch west of Dade City, Fla. NRCS photo.

John Bushell with one of the horses on his ranch west of Dade City, Fla. NRCS photo.

John and Margaret Bushell planned to retire 11 years ago after a long career in law enforcement. But when they were about to settle down on their 50-acre ranch near Dade City, Fla. to tend cattle and ride horses, they got offered a deal from the nearby sheriff that they couldn’t pass up.

The sheriff asked them to work part time from their ranch, heading up the Pasco Sheriff’s Mounted Posse. John was a former deputy chief of police for the Tampa Police Department, where he worked for 30 years. Margaret also retired from the department, where she worked 17 years as a detective. Read more »

Jackson-Madison County Schools Demonstrate the Power of Youth Engagement

Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System

Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System

In today’s installment of our Cafeteria Stories series, we highlight the innovative and successful school nutrition strategies that a Tennessee school district is using to positively impact the health of our next generation.  I believe very strongly in the power of student engagement, and the Jackson-Madison County School District is expertly tapping into that resource.  By empowering students and integrating them into the program structure, they have altered food culture and made the healthy choice the desirable choice within and outside of the school walls.  We thank them for sharing their story!

Guest Blog By: Susan Johnson, School Nutrition Director of Jackson-Madison County School System

Sometimes I hear people say that kids don’t like the healthy foods they are served at school, but what I see every day in the 27 schools that make up the Jackson-Madison County School System tells me otherwise. My staff and I see our students choosing to not only eat, but also grow fruits and vegetables, and educate others about the benefits of making healthy choices daily.

At our schools, we are committed to maintaining high standards for the food that we serve to students so that they can flourish in and outside of the classroom. In 2008, our district set minimum nutrition standards for food offered to students in grades PreK-8, which put us on the right track to comply with the USDA’s school meals standards and the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, which went into effect this summer. Enrolling in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program provided us with specific tools, such as the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, that enabled us to not only meet, but exceed, federal standards at our schools today. Read more »

Many Facets of Pennsylvania Agriculture

Half-a-billion dollars’ worth of mushrooms would cover a lot of pizzas, Pennsylvania!  Check back next Thursday to learn more about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Half-a-billion dollars’ worth of mushrooms would cover a lot of pizzas, Pennsylvania! Check back next Thursday to learn more about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

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.

Many people today associate Pennsylvania with heavy industries, such as coal and steel, forgetting the presence of another major industry – agriculture. Farming has been a major part of Pennsylvania culture for centuries. In fact, one of the theories behind the “Keystone State” moniker is that Pennsylvania was a combination of Northern industries and Southern agriculture, making it a true keystone of the original colonies. And even today, agriculture remains a major component of our state’s economy.

As the latest Census of Agriculture showed, Pennsylvania farmers sold more than $7.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012 and have nearly 60,000 farms and ranches on more than 7.7 million acres of land. The land area dedicated to farming in Pennsylvania is larger than the total areas of at least 8 states in the nation. Read more »

FSIS Enhances Food Safety Protections for Ground Beef

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced new procedures that will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce, and identify the root cause to prevent it from happening again.  These changes build on other initiatives the agency has instituted this summer to improve the safety of ground beef, including a proposed requirement that retailers keep records of their ground beef source suppliers, and new laboratory methods the agency is using to test these products for multiple pathogens at one time.

Typically, a company that produces ground beef uses source material purchased from a slaughterhouse or other supplier.  As the ground beef is being produced, FSIS takes a sample and tests it for the presence of illness-causing E. coli O157:H7. Read more »