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Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »

Good News about Early Childhood Obesity Rates

Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.

Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.

USDA believes in giving children a foundation for life-long health through access to healthy food and quality nutrition education.  So, that’s why we are encouraged by a couple of recent studies that indicate that the rates of obesity among young children are declining.  One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that rates of obesity among young children ages 2-5 years have declined in the last decade, while another found that obesity is declining in low-income preschoolers in 19 states.  These results suggest that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the health of our next generation!  These findings were noted by Dr. Bill Dietz, former Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity during his presentation at the 3rd meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on March 14, 2014.

Efforts to turn the tide of obesity, both within the Federal government and in communities across the country, are having an impact in the preschool population.  The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services programs are an important part of these efforts.  Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, USDA is making critical changes to the foods available to children – even the picky eaters. Read more »

Celebrate 30 Delicious, Kid-Approved Recipes during National Nutrition Month

The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad won second place in the grains category.  Photo by Jeanne S., Lauren M., Jeanne G. and Rodney P. from Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, MA.

The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad won second place in the grains category. Photo by Jeanne S., Lauren M., Jeanne G. and Rodney P. from Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, MA.

For much of the nation, the long winter has presented a great opportunity to gather in the kitchen and cook up a new dish with the family. In the spirit of National Nutrition Month, USDA has recently released new cookbooks that feature 30 delicious, kid-approved recipes. The offerings represent the top picks from the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition where teams of students, teachers, community members and chefs competed to create dishes that could be incorporated into school lunch menus.

Inspired by the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, the Competition kicked off on September 7, 2010 at the start of the school year.  The Competition supported historic improvements made to school meals made possible by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the aggressive goals set by the White House for the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Read more »

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 »