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A Diverse Sector is a Strong Sector: My Brother’s Keeper National Week at the Labs

Local middle-school students participating in a demonstration on pollinators during the White House Day at the Lab.

32 students toured live and preserved insect collections at the United States Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., where they learned how scientists name newly discovered species, observed varieties of sweet potatoes grown at the facility and discussed careers in STEAM with Dr. Mark W. Farnham, an ARS plant research geneticist.

Two years ago, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent disadvantages and ensure boys and young men of color have opportunities to reach their full potential.  Since the initiative’s launch, the Administration has partnered with nonprofits, businesses, towns and cities to connect young people with mentors and resources, helping to build lasting bridges of opportunity for youth across the country.

Over the next five years, approximately 57,900 jobs will become available in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment annually — with only 35,400 students graduating with the specialized expertise to fill them. A diverse sector is a strong sector, and that’s why we’re taking strides to ensure all Americans have access to the array of opportunities across the field. Read more »

One Heck of a Storm

Ice weighing down power lines in Oklahoma following winter storm Goliath

Ice weighs down power lines in Oklahoma following winter storm Goliath. Photo credit: The Oklahoma Association of Electric Co-ops

Now that the ice has finally melted and most of us have our power back on, it’s time to start evaluating the effect of the mega winter storm that screamed through the Southern Plains right after Christmas.

As a brief recap, winter storm Goliath hit the Southern Plains on December 26 through 28 leaving in its wake record snow fall in parts of Texas, power outages from ice accumulations of over one inch in parts of Oklahoma, and freezing rain and sleet in Kansas. Record flooding occurred throughout the Southern Plains making December 2015 the wettest on record for most of the region.  It’s been estimated that over 40 people were killed by this storm (many coming from the Southern Plains region), making it the deadliest weather system recorded in 2015.  The storm spawned 24 tornadoes, numerous flooding events, and left hundreds of thousands without power. Read more »

Funding to Support Healthy Meals and Environments in Our Nation’s Schools and Child Care

The Murtillo Mazzo team

The Murtillo Mazzo (Italian for the “Blueberry Bunch”) won second place in Michigan Department of Education’s 2015 Junior Chef Breakfast Competition with their locally inspired Grab ‘n Go Blueberry Oatmeal Sundaes. This competition was sponsored in part with funds from a 2013 USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant.

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.

As the old proverb goes, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most educators live by this adage, agreeing that teaching a skill and educating pupils on the importance of that skill will “feed (them) for a lifetime.”

USDA agrees with this proverb. We believe that teaching children how to eat healthy, and educating them on the importance of proper nutrition, is crucial to the health and wellbeing of our next generation.  And to demonstrate our support of healthy eating and nutrition education, USDA launched the Team Nutrition initiative more than two decades ago. Read more »

Teddy Bears are Alive and Well Thanks to Stewardship-Minded Farmers in Louisiana

Landowner in Support of Black Bear Restoration sign on gate

NRCS has worked with agricultural producers to restore and protect more than 250,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods in Louisiana in priority areas.

Fresh into my career as a wildlife biologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), two things happened: a new Farm Bill conservation program was born, and the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Both were very connected, even if I didn’t know it at the time.

The new program was the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), created in the 1990 Farm Bill and piloted in 1992 in nine states, including Louisiana. This program provides technical and financial assistance to farmers who want to voluntarily restore and protect wetlands with long-term conservation easements, enabling them to restore difficult-to-farm cropland back into wetlands. Read more »

Fresh Produce – The Original Smart Snack

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (“The Alliance”) was founded as a response to the growing rate of childhood obesity. To combat this epidemic and to help make the healthy choice the easy choice, the Alliance created the Healthy Schools Program in 2006, launched in 231 schools in 13 states. The Healthy Schools Program has since grown to become the nation’s most extensive effort to prevent childhood obesity in schools and is now building healthier school environments for more than 17 million students in more than 29,000 schools in every state and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

By Jill Turley, MS, RD/LD and Joshua Moore of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Produce is packed full of the nutrients youth need to learn and play, whether at school, in an out-of-school time program, or at home. Children should be exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables to help ensure these products are what come to mind when reaching for a snack.

Innovations in the produce industry can help with just that! The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in collaboration with the United Fresh Produce Association, has identified several kid-friendly, single-serve, fresh produce snacks that meet USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards and offer easy, delicious snack options for schools or out-of-school time programs. Read more »

Managing Forests in the Face of Drought – There is Help!

Forests on the Conecuh National Forest

Longleaf pine plantations of trees approximately 25 years old have received their first commercial thinning on the Conecuh National Forest. Photo credit: Jim Guldin, US Forest Service

Drought, especially prolonged or severe drought, can be a major stress in forest ecosystems.  Drought can kill trees directly or indirectly through insect attack or wildfire. Both of which are more likely to occur during drought.

Tree mortality impacts most of the ecosystem services provided by forests, including the amount of wood that grows, how much carbon is captured and stored, the health of critical wildlife habitat, water yield and quality, and even whether it’s safe to pursue recreational activities such as hiking or hunting. Read more »