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Annual Salmon Migration Continues in Steep Creek on Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

The male sockeye salmon has a larger head with elongated jaws, hooked snouts and strongly developed teeth. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The male sockeye salmon has a larger head with elongated jaws, hooked snouts and strongly developed teeth. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Since the second week in July, locals and visitors alike have congregated on the viewing platforms above Steep Creek near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau, Alaska to enjoy the sockeye salmon migration.

From mid-July through the end of August, the sockeye salmon enter the creek to dig redds (nests), find mates and spawn. For thousands of viewers this annual show is seen not in person but on the screens of their computers or smart phones, thanks to the Steep Creek salmon cam. Read more »

Ensuring Healthy Meals during the Summer Helps Kids Head Back to Class Ready to Learn

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Volunteers from the Children’s Reading Foundation of Doña Ana County provide free books and read stories during lunch to help kids return to class ready to learn.

Children who live in the Franklin Vista Apartments in Anthony, N.M., didn’t have to walk far to receive a healthy breakfast and lunch this summer, thanks to Gadsden ISD Food Service Director Demetrious Giovas.  He made sure children there were able to gather under the covered porch of the apartment community center for a nutritious meal.  The school district set up tables each day to ensure the kids had access to healthy food while school was out of session.

For the first time, Gadsden ISD provided daily breakfasts and lunches to children at apartments through the Seamless Summer Option of the National School Lunch Program. Food was prepared at the local elementary school, where it was distributed to 14 sites including Franklin Vista Apartments, as well as churches, other community-based facilities and schools.  Throughout the summer, sites sponsored by the school district provided an average of 2,000 lunches and 1,900 breakfasts each weekday. Read more »

Have Fun Outside This Weekend – But Keep the Ticks Off

Ticks can transmit up to 14 diseases to humans – don’t let the bloodsuckers ruin your summer or fall.

Ticks can transmit up to 14 diseases to humans – don’t let the bloodsuckers ruin your summer or fall.

Many people are squeezing in the last bit of summer by enjoying the outdoors through walks, hiking on trails, biking, camping, outdoor sports, and picnics in parks and forests.  Unfortunately, these activities – sometimes even in our own backyards – increase our risk of being exposed to ticks and the diseases they carry.

Ticks are a nuisance.  No one wants anything on their body that drinks their blood or – worse than that – also give you a disease.  Most people are familiar with Lyme disease, but not the many other equally serious diseases that ticks carry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists 14 diseases that ticks in the United States can transmit and cause human disease.  The CDC website also has regional distribution maps with pictures of the ticks that carry these diseases and where in the nation they are most like to be. Read more »

USDA, Department of Defense, Celebrate the Bounty of Farmers Market

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Administrator Rowe views the healthy offerings provided at a local farmers market.

Earlier this month, USDA celebrated National Farmers Market Week to highlight the healthy offerings they provide American families.  The department invests in farmers markets in a myriad of ways – from helping farmers develop their products for markets, to enriching children’s bodies and minds through the “farm to school” program.  In fact, there are more than 8,000 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, and more than 5,000 farm stands and farmers markets across the nation are accepting SNAP benefits.

During the month, I had a chance to speak with Lt. Col. Eric Smith, commander of Fort Meade’s (Md.) Headquarters Command Battalion.  We discussed USDA’s partnership with the Department of Defense and supporting the Healthy Base Initiative through FNS programs.  DoD’s Healthy Base Initiative works to improve the health and wellness of service members and their families by reducing obesity and decreasing tobacco use. Currently, 14 military installations participate in a pilot to create an environment that promotes healthy lifestyles. Fort Meade is one of them. Read more »

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. Read more »

Moldova’s Agriculture Minister Visits USDA for Round of ‘Conservation Talks’

Members of the Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry listen to a USDA presentation on no-till and minimum-till management programs during a meeting at the Agriculture Department. NRCS photo.

Members of the Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry listen to a USDA presentation on no-till and minimum-till management programs during a meeting at the Agriculture Department. NRCS photo.

Moldova’s minister of agriculture and food industry, Vasile Bumacov, recently visited with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to learn more about no-till and minimum-till systems – and how the agency supports farmers wanting to implement them.

NRCS briefed Minister Bumacov on technical and financial assistance programs that promote the use, by American farmers, of no-till and minimum-till systems, where crops are grown with little soil disturbance and the soil is kept covered with crop residue to conserve soil, water and energy. The assistance from NRCS provides U.S. farmers guidance and funding in putting these systems to work. Read more »