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Working Together to Bring Healthy Foods to Communities in Need

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council Blog:

Recently, representatives from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the US Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury joined representatives from various community projects from around the country to discuss how to increase healthy food access to communities in need.  The event included representatives from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Food Research and Action Center, Policy Link, and the Fair Food Network.

Participants shared their stories of success, and what we can do to encourage more healthy foods in these communities.  For example: Read more »

USDA Continues Reaching Indian Country through the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)

These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.

These “My Plate” models show how FDPIR foods fit into recommended food groups.

Finding groceries can be difficult in many inner city neighborhoods, and in many rural areas the challenge can be even more daunting.  Americans living in remote areas might easily spend half a day just making a grocery run. And for many Native Americans living on Indian reservations, simply getting to a place to purchase nutritious foods becomes a constant struggle.

Food security is a top priority for the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand for agricultural products.” Read more »

Food Safety and Worker Safety Can Improve in Poultry Facilities

While rates of Salmonella illnesses remain stubbornly high in this country, the United States is continuing to rely on a 60-year-old poultry inspection system developed under the Eisenhower Administration.  Our knowledge of foodborne illness and poultry processing has improved significantly since then, and our food safety measures should too. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has examined new approaches to poultry safety through an extensive multi-year pilot project.  In January 2012, FSIS put forward a modernization proposal based on this project because the data showed modernizing our procedures to combat invisible pathogens, rather than relying extensively on visual inspection, could prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses per year. As a public health agency, it is crucial that we make use of 21st century science to reduce pathogens and save lives.

Some of the changes being proposed in the modernization plan concern some groups who misunderstand what FSIS is putting forward. In particular, some have claimed that the allowed speed increase for evisceration lines would lead to higher injury rates among poultry plant workers.  But a newly released report provides evidence that this isn’t the case. Read more »

Microloan Gets Getting Growing

Andy Getting’s high tunnel, financed with a Microloan from FSA, protects his new strawberries.

Andy Getting’s high tunnel, financed with a Microloan from FSA, protects his new strawberries.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Beginning farmer Andy Getting was doing some research on the Internet when he came across information on USDA’s Microloan program.  The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process, and with up to seven years to repay.

Getting, an Iowa farmer, grows irrigated corn, soybeans and strawberries. He is a part-owner with his parents, Don and Mary Getting, who are starting their 30th farming season.

The Gettings started growing strawberries in 1983 on one acre. Next year, they will pick 17 acres of June-bearing strawberries. Their customers have the option of picking their own berries or they can buy pre-picked berries at the market, which also sells fresh strawberry shakes, muffins, bread and many other strawberry-flavored baked goods made by Getting’s grandmother. During the summer months, the market employs 15 to 30 people. Read more »

Research, Public Can Help Bats Survive White-Nose Syndrome

Little brown bats, like these found in a cave in Maine in 2013, are increasingly being found with white-nose syndrome. The U.S. Forest Service is researching many angles to help wildlife managers and the public to combat the disease. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Little brown bats, like these found in a cave in Maine in 2013, are increasingly being found with white-nose syndrome. The U.S. Forest Service is researching many angles to help wildlife managers and the public to combat the disease. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Take a moment to look at the night sky and watch the swift flight of bats on their daily mission as they dart through your backyard or forest. Now, think about how it’s becoming harder to spot these winged wonders, and ask why. The answer: The quickly growing spread of a disease known as white-nose syndrome has been decimating bat populations, as explained in a recently released film on the subject.

This increasingly devastating disease has killed more than six million bats in just six years, a serious problem for a creature that provides so many benefits to the environment – as both a plant pollinator and as a major predator in keeping insect populations in check. Read more »

America’s Nutrition Safety Net Remains Strong

SNAP benefits help millions of American families in need put food on the table.

SNAP benefits help millions of American families in need put food on the table.

As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I’m encouraged by the strong support the new Farm Bill gives the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Millions of American families can now be assured that they will have continued access to healthy food as they return to work and rebuild in the wake of tough times. As we move forward, though, I think it’s a good time to highlight some of the facts about this vital program that may not be widely known. For example, did you know: Read more »