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California Food for California Kids, Especially on Thursdays

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

I collect aprons like other people collect coins. There are dozens hanging in my kitchen, so many I suspect several have never actually been used. So it was with some self-consciousness that I accepted yet another apron last fall from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The Center was handing out hundreds of aprons to California school food service directors along with recipes for healthy school meals. At the Palm Springs Convention Center, tables were lined with ingredients, tools of the trade such as mixing bowls and measuring cups, and two burner stoves. Our task was to locate our group and get cooking; we’d be making lunch not for hungry children but for hungry conference attendees at the California Food for California Kids conference. Read more »

The Heroism of Fostering a Healthier Next Generation

Magaly Valentin (left), and Rosalba Gomez (right) Arlington Food Services prepare fresh salads and vegetable cups for the National School Lunch Program in the kitchen at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. USDA Photo: Bob Nichols.

Magaly Valentin (left), and Rosalba Gomez (right) Arlington Food Services prepare fresh salads and vegetable cups for the National School Lunch Program in the kitchen at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. USDA Photo: Bob Nichols.

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s schools. Each day, millions of America’s young people are educated, fed and nurtured in these academic “villages.” A crucial aspect of each child’s education is learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. School nutrition employees and school nurses play critical roles in this mission, and I am fortunate to witness, first-hand, the dedication of these professionals as I visit USDA school lunch and breakfast programs around the country.

Over the next few days, we have the opportunity to pay tribute to those who work so hard to ensure the health of our children at school. On Friday, we celebrated National School Lunch Hero Day, a time to recognize hardworking school nutrition employees nationwide. This week, we are continuing to honor these professionals during National School Nutrition Employee Week. Both events allow us to demonstrate our gratitude to those who dedicate their careers to preparing and serving healthy meals to our nation’s children. Read more »

Developing National Dietary Guidance for the Birth to 24 Months Age Group

USDA and HHS are in the process of developing dietary guidelines for infants and children under two years old, based on the latest in nutrition science.

USDA and HHS are in the process of developing dietary guidelines for infants and children under two years old, based on the latest in nutrition science.

Good nutrition is vital to optimal infant and toddler growth, development, and health. The importance of this age group has been emphasized by First Lady Michelle Obama, who said that “If our kids get into the habit of getting up and playing, if their palates warm up to veggies at an early age, and if they’re not glued to a TV screen all day, they’re on their way to healthy habits for life.” So, making sure that even the youngest infants and toddlers are on the road to a healthy life is critical, and having national dietary guidance for infants and children from birth to 24 months can help make this happen.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides sound advice for making food and physical activity choices that promote good health and a healthy weight, and help prevent disease for Americans, including Americans at increased risk of chronic disease. The DGA has traditionally focused on adults and children 2 years of age and older. Infants and toddlers from birth to 24 months of age have not been a focus in previous versions of the DGA because of their unique nutritional needs, eating patterns, and developmental stages. Read more »

Leaf Litter Keeps Ground-Roosting Bats Warm

Roosting under leaf litter has shown to keep eastern red bats warm during the winter. (Creative Commons/Anita Gould)

Roosting under leaf litter has shown to keep eastern red bats warm during the winter. (Creative Commons/Anita Gould)

When winter weather arrives, most bats hibernate in caves, but a few species migrate to warmer areas. Warmer being relative, the migrating bats may still end up in places that are too cold for comfort, and sometimes hibernate under leaf litter for short periods of time.

Roger Perry, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, studied these temporary hibernation sites to find out how much protection they offered bats, and how much energy bats expend to stay alive.

The leaf litter study took place in and around the Alum Creek Experimental Forest of the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, and focuses on eastern red bats, a migratory species that remains active through most of the winter. When winter temperatures are not too cold the bats roost in trees, but when temperatures plunge, the bats temporarily hibernate underneath leaf litter. Read more »

A Lifetime of Statistics

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for numbers and statistics. That’s why I’ve dedicated the last 39 years of my life to this amazing field.

I earned my degree in statistics in 1975 and shortly after that joined the U.S. Census Bureau, where I worked for 21 years.  At the Census Bureau, I had a really diverse experience, having worked on crime, housing, economics, and labor statistics, before ending up with the Census of Agriculture team. It was when this team transitioned to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 1997 that I joined my new home away from home at USDA. Read more »

Getting Geeky at the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When you think of agriculture do you think of science and engineering? You should! Farmers are some of our original scientists, tinkering with plant varieties and farming techniques to find ways to reliably grow food. At USDA, we still do that kind of research in a never-ending effort to find better ways to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We also do a lot of research you might not think of when you think about agriculture: from forensic genetic analysis to track down unwanted pests to figuring out how to turn spent grain from distilleries into biodegradable kitty litter.

On April 26-27, the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Over 325,000 people came out to celebrate discovery and innovation through over 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 performances and lectures.  USDA pulled all of the stops to show our geeky side and hopefully convince a few young booth visitors to consider agriculture when they think about careers in science. Read more »