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Variety is Key When Serving Grains

Oats, barley, and other grains

Oats, barley, and other grains. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.

The programs within USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) strive to provide Americans with the assistance and information they need to maintain healthy lifestyles.

In achieving that mission, FNCS relies heavily on the advice of experts, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Recently, the level of arsenic in rice has received increased attention, and FDA has proposed a maximum allowable level of arsenic in infant rice cereal products. Because of the new proposed guidance issued by FDA, which is open to public comment now, USDA is working to assist growers and processors wishing to utilize their products for infant rice cereal to ensure that their rice does not contain amounts of arsenic that surpass the new limit of 100 parts per billion (ppb). Read more »

New Study Highlights Redcedar’s Impact on Prairie Chickens, Helps Improve Conservation Efforts

Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed

Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed.

A new study offers the first empirical data proving that female lesser prairie-chickens avoid grasslands when trees are present. The study, highlighted in a Science to Solutions report by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), underscores the importance of removing woody invasive plants like redcedar to restore grassland habitat. The new data will help guide USDA’s conservation efforts.

Though sometimes called the “green glacier” for its steady progress across the prairie, redcedar encroachment is far from glacial in speed. Open grasslands can become closed-canopy forest in as little as 40 years, making the land unsuitable to lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Read more »

Silent Cultural Symbols that Speak Volumes

Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado

Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. Forest Service photo

Quietly waiting for you in our national forests and grasslands are what remains of long past civilizations and cultures. Some of these sites still have direct spiritual or cultural meaning to folks today while others are a complete mystery of what once was of a vanished people. Yet, in both cases, the adventurer is reminded of the centuries-old relationship between people and the land.

It’s this relationship between land and people that gives the U.S. Forest Service such pride in knowing that we protect these irreplaceable symbols that ancient peoples left to us. These near mystical treasures can be found from the Olympic National Forest in Washington State to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands of North Dakota to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest of Virginia. Read more »

SNAP-Ed Helps Spur Healthy Choices

A family making food

SNAP-Ed provides shoppers with the information they need to make healthy food and lifestyle choices.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Encouraging all Americans to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One of the most important ways we do that is through nutrition education provided by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP-Ed delivers evidence-based, coordinated nutrition education and obesity prevention services and information to people participating in SNAP, as well as other eligible low-income families and communities.  Activities provided through SNAP-Ed encourage physical activity, work to improve nutrition, and prevent obesity.  These activities may include: Read more »

USDA Provides Nutritious U.S. Peanuts in Humanitarian Effort for Haiti

Peanuts in a bowl

U.S. peanut farmers produce more than 4 million metric tons of peanuts each year that provide consumers a monounsaturated fats and protein rich food that also is a good source of vitamin E, niacin and folate, making it an ideal nutritional source for school age children worldwide.

“Working for peanuts” is a phrase typically used when someone is toiling for little reward. But when describing the activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a far better phrase is “working with peanuts,” especially when referring to the agreement recently reached by USDA to provide this nutritional commodity to a neighboring nation in great need, the Republic of Haiti.

USDA crafted a deal that will result in 500 metric tons of packaged, dry-roasted peanuts grown in the United States to be shipped later this year to school children in Haiti who have little access to food.  This effort stems from the “Stocks for Food” program that first started in late 2007, a joint project between the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) that transfers surplus farm commodities in government inventory to feeding programs and food banks both domestically and overseas. Read more »

A Visitor’s Perspective: What Everyone Should Know about USDA and their Impact on Nutrition

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon taking a photo of his lunch mates at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon takes a photo of his lunch mates at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Until 6 months ago, I was a typical academic. I spent most of my time doing research on obesity. Apart from a few years in consulting between college and graduate school, my entire career has been in a university. Since so much of my research aims to inform policy, I decided it was time for me to see how decisions actually get made. This past summer, I had the good fortune of being selected to the White House Fellowship – a fantastic year-long program which provides an intimate view of federal policy making. Each fellow is placed in the executive branch, and my home for this year is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). At USDA, I work as a Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Kevin Concannon in Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. This is a great fit for me since USDA – among other things – oversees the suite of federal nutrition assistance programs that help low-income families (including mine when I was a young child) put food on the table in times of need.

To be frank, I thought I would love the experience and hate government. From my outsider perspective, government seemed clunky, inefficient and bloated with too many people doing redundant work. I was completely wrong. Read more »