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What’s Shaking in School Meals?

What's Shaking infographic

USDA’s What’s Shaking? resources offer creative ways to boost flavor with less sodium. (Click to enlarge)

What’s shaking in USDA’s school meals programs?  Delicious and nutritious food, that’s what!  Healthy food does not have to be bland or boring.  There’s more to creating a tasty meal than just dousing food in dressing or layering on salty sauces.  It’s easy to make your dish pop without adding excess sodium.  Many schools around the country have figured out creative ways to serve low-sodium meals that maximize taste.  So what can you do this school year to “spice” things up and take school meals to the next level? Read more »

The Nuna Bean: ‘Power Popper’ Has Funny Name, Serious Nutritional Benefits

Nuña beans

Nuña beans. USDA-ARS photo.

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Indigenous people of the Andes Mountains in South America have farmed the nuña bean (a.k.a. “Peruvian Popping bean”) as a staple crop for centuries. Its colorful, nutty-flavored seed is especially prized for its tendency to pop open when roasted—a cooking method that requires less firewood than boiling in fuel-scarce regions.

At the Agricultural Research Service’s Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman, Washington, plant geneticist Ted Kisha curates an edible dry bean collection that includes 91 accessions of high-altitude nuña beans grown by Andean farmers in Peru, the origin for this legume member of the Phaseolus vulgaris family. Read more »

Commitment to Innovation and Conservation Shapes the Littles’ Family Farm

The Littles in front of their cattle

The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.

When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.

Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »

“Fuel Up to Play 60″ Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visiting Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture

Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visits Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture during the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few. Read more »

Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture, Dedicating Three Decades to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrating Art Hulberg's 100th birthday

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates Art Hulberg's 100th Birthday and his 30 year commitment to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Photo courtesy of Deb Mercier, News Editor, Pope County Tribune

When Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this month, he also marked the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a personal letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Hulberg and his brother Clifford farmed nearly 200 acres in Pope County, Minnesota.  When CRP began, the Hulbergs eventually enrolled 188 acres in the program.  When Clifford passed away in 1989, Art took over as full owner of the property and to this day works with USDA staff to manage his CRP acres.  For example, when the Walk-In-Access (WIA) program began, Hulberg immediately enrolled to allow for hunting on his CRP acreage.  WIA is supported by a grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access Program that assists with public access to CRP for wildlife-dependent recreation.  Hulberg also has helped fellow farmers and livestock producers in his community by allowing them to use his CRP acres for managed haying practices. Read more »

100 Years of U.S. Forest Service Research and Development

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

U.S. Forest Service Research and Development celebrates a century of existence this year and while we don’t all get the opportunity to work directly with our researchers and scientists, we all benefit from their contributions.

We are extremely fortunate as an agency to have our own Research & Development branch. It has allowed us to not only develop the science that we need to do our jobs but also to apply it to our present and future initiatives. We are a science-based organization and many of the solutions to the challenges we face derive from the team’s work. Read more »