Photo credit: Mark Trail via @ComicsKingdom
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Awareness week is May 17-23 and my tenure in a nationally syndicated comic strip is coming to an end, so it’s a good time to tell you how a new USDA employee wound up cartoon-ized.
The Mark Trail strip—known for its environmental themes—just finished a six-week long storyline about the invasive EAB. The EAB, a small metallic green wood-boring beetle, destroys ash trees and is now found in 25 U.S. States. The Mark Trail strip features “Agent Abbey Powell from the USDA” and shares information about the EAB. To view the comic—beginning with my debut—visit Mark Trail. Read more »
Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.
Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers. USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.
I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »
Creating healthier environments starts at home and in schools.
Sodium, the major nutrient found in salt, is essential to maintain blood volume, regulate water balance in cells, and aid nerve function. According to the American Heart Association, however, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
Unfortunately, 90 percent of children in the U.S. consume too much sodium (as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). With that in mind, USDA and our partners are seeking creative ways to reduce sodium content in school meals, yet still keep students healthy and happy. Read more »
Enrichment activities help keep children and teens engaged, while they receive a healthy meal or snack at USDA summer meals sites.
The following guest blog was submitted by Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to free and low-cost books to children in need. Many USDA summer meals sites provide not only healthy meals and snacks, but also offer physical activity and enrichment activities to keep children and teens engaged and coming back. First Book serves up a helping of books and educational resources to support these meals sites while they provide healthy options when school is out for the summer.
By Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book
We all know that nutrition is closely tied to school performance. Brains and bodies need healthy foods to nourish and nurture their development. While schools play a critical role in providing free and reduced cost breakfasts and lunches during the school year, those needs can be even greater in the summer when children are out of school and families’ limited food budgets need to account for those extra meals. Fortunately, thanks to the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), healthy summer meals are available for children in low-income neighborhoods. We just have to work together to make sure families know about summer meals programs available in their community. Read more »
Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart.
Last month, the Obama Administration and the White House Rural Council, with Secretary Vilsack as the chair, launched Rural Impact, a coordinated effort across federal agencies to strengthen rural economies by supporting children and their families.
Today, Secretary Vilsack is in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference. Speaking with delegations from over 20 countries, he is discussing a new report, summarized below. This report examines what we know about kids living in rural poverty in the U.S. and how we can best assist them to reach their full potential.
If we invest in our rural communities, especially children and families experiencing poverty in these areas, we will be building a stronger country for our future.
Cross-posted from the White House blog: Read more »
Forest Products Laboratory contributes to developing codes and standards for mid- to high-rise wood structures. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Some, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the series of earthquakes that destroyed infrastructure, homes and communities in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, capture global attention.
After natural disasters such as these, rebuilding a city needs to be efficient and cost-effective, with an eye towards resilience in the face of future disasters. Engineered wood building systems like glulam and cross laminated timber, also known as CLT, are well suited to meet these needs as they are often prefabricated offsite and can be quickly installed. That helps communities bounce back from disaster in a shorter time frame while minimizing waste. Furthermore, just as trees flex in high winds, timber structures flex in earthquakes, placing wood construction systems at the forefront of seismic design for resilience. Read more »