Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Keeping Foods Safe For a Successful School Year

As the days get shorter and the month of August winds down with the appearance of back-to-school sales, we recognize the telltale signs that signal the “official” end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.  For USDA professionals interested in food safety, nutrition and health, thoughts of safe food preparation and school lunches packed at home, come to mind. 

It is estimated that each year in the U.S., there are more than 48 million cases of foodborne illness, with 128,000 people hospitalized from these illnesses and nearly 3,000 deaths.  It is startling that one in six Americans will become ill from foodborne illness each year since most are preventable.  The most vulnerable members of our population are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised by other diseases and illnesses.  That’s why care must be taken to assure that the foods consumed are safe. Read more »

New Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy Good for Cattle Ranches, Good for Birds

Sage-grouse on land

USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.

Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.

The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »

Alaskan High School Students Learn Valuable Skills at “Fish Boot Camp”

The Twelvemile Creek restoration monitoring crew and Fish Tech Boot Camp students and instructors posing for a photo in front of a screw trap

The Twelvemile Creek restoration monitoring crew and Fish Tech Boot Camp students and instructors pose for a photo in front of a screw trap, which captures coho and steelhead smolt that our migrating out to the ocean. The fish are released after being measured and marked with a coded wire tag. Students from Port Protection, Thorne Bay, and Klawock, Alaska, joined the crew composed of staff from the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society and the University of Alaska Southeast Fish Tech Program. Photo credit: Scott Harris, Sitka Conservation Society

This post was co-authored with Andrew Thoms, Executive Director of the Sitka Conservation Society.

“The thing that our forests grow best is salmon!” is the local phrase that a visitor is most likely to hear when visiting some of the 32 communities that live near the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. 

Tongass National Forest staff, local school districts, a local conservation organization, and the University of Alaska have undertaken a joint project to figure out how a forest can be managed to create jobs and other economic opportunities and guarantee the long-term sustainable yield of the Tongass’ fisheries resources. Read more »

School Lunch Equipment Grants Help Provide Healthier Meals to Students Nationwide

Flowing Wells employee using the oven unit

Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.

USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of $25 million in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) equipment grants for Fiscal Year 2015. These grants help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.

Here are some examples of how these grants have benefitted schools in the past: Read more »

Washington Woman Inspired to Grow Out on Her Own

Elsa Torres with her father

Elsa Torres’ father, Jose, inspired her to buy an orchard and farm on her own.

For Elsa Torres, farming is more than just a job or a livelihood. It’s an inspiration.

Ever since she was a young girl, Elsa can remember working in orchard fields with her father, Jose Torres. It was something she loved and cherished. “My father is the person I admire the most,” said Elsa. “He came from Mexico with nothing and for 25 years he worked on an orchard that he now owns. He didn’t start out with a formal education.  But now he’s a business owner.  He’s an example of the American dream and how someone who works hard can become a success.” Read more »

School Breakfast Program Provides Increasing Number of Meals

Average Daily School Breakfast Participants, 1975-2014 chart

ERS’s Charts of Note series, like the above, provides daily snapshots of highlights from current and previous research on food assistance and other topics. Each provides a graph or map with accompanying text.

Sometimes called the “most important meal of the day” for school-aged children, breakfast is available at nearly 90,000 schools across the country courtesy of USDA’s School Breakfast Program. On an average school day in fiscal 2014, some 13.5 million students participated. The Economic Research Service (ERS) illustrates the growth of the program in a new entry in its popular daily “Charts of Note” series. As the chart indicates, participation has more than doubled since 1996.

The School Breakfast Program, permanently authorized in 1975, is newer than the arguably-more-renowned National School Lunch Program, established nearly three decades earlier in 1946. The statistics tell an interesting story. Throughout the history of the School Breakfast Program, the number of participating children was considerably smaller than in the National School Lunch Program and is still less than half. Nevertheless, as the breakfast program funding increased—and grants to schools to help start up the program became more available—the number of schools participating in the breakfast program has steadily grown, making it available to more students. Read more »