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School Nutrition Professionals – Our Everyday Heroes

As the school year begins to wind down, let’s take time to acknowledge the unsung heroes in our nation’s school cafeterias.  School nutrition employees contribute greatly to a child’s short- and long-term health and academic success, but their contributions often go without recognition.  Today is School Lunch Hero Day, and next week (May 5-9) is School Nutrition Employee Week.  Let’s take this opportunity to extend our thanks for all that school nutrition employees do to support our children throughout the entire school year.

School nutrition employees often arrive well before the school buses begin rolling in, working to ensure that students have access to a healthy breakfast to start the school day.  Their commitment to these early mornings is invaluable, as we know that breakfast plays a key role in a child’s ability to learn.  Before the breakfast period ends, staff members are often doing double duty as they begin preparations for the lunch meal.  They’re on their feet, working hard to ensure that our school children receive healthy and tasty meals to fuel their day.

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US Forest Service Employees View ‘The Thick Dark Fog’ Documentary about Treatment of Native American School Children

In their Wounded Knee, South Dakota home, Walter Littlemoon looks at the book his wife, Jane Ridgway, helped him write over the course of four years. “Something was wrong with me, and I couldn’t function like what I thought a human being should.” The words he used to describe his problem became the title of a documentary. “I didn’t know the medical words. So I called the problem what I knew it to be: the thick dark fog.” (Used with permission/Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

In their Wounded Knee, South Dakota home, Walter Littlemoon looks at the book his wife, Jane Ridgway, helped him write over the course of four years. “Something was wrong with me, and I couldn’t function like what I thought a human being should.” The words he used to describe his problem became the title of a documentary. “I didn’t know the medical words. So I called the problem what I knew it to be: the thick dark fog.” (Used with permission/Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

 

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik listens to Walter Littlemoon at Walter's house in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Littlemoon is the focus of “The Thick Dark Fog,” which are the words he used to describe memories he blocked of years about the abuse he received in a federal Indian boarding school. (Used with permission /Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik listens to Walter Littlemoon at Walter's house in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Littlemoon is the focus of “The Thick Dark Fog,” which are the words he used to describe memories he blocked of years about the abuse he received in a federal Indian boarding school. (Used with permission /Kahlil Hudson/Image courtesy of Vision Maker Media. © 2012 High Valley Films)

Unfortunately, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the government often actively suppressed Indian culture by banning certain spiritual practices on reservations. It was only in 1978, with the passage of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, that the government formally established a policy to protect Native American Sacred Sites and traditional forms of worship.

In federal Indian schools, children were often not allowed to be Indians – to express their Native culture or identity in any way was to risk being severely humiliated or abused. Many Native Americans lived with this trauma well into adulthood. More than 100,000 Native American students attended these schools from 1879 to the present. Although a few of the schools still exist, attendance is no longer mandatory.

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Opportunity is Brewing with USDA Grant Program

 

Brewing tanks from a craft brewery.  Massachusetts used a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant to help local farmers tap into the $14.3 billion craft brewing industry.   Photo courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti.

Brewing tanks from a craft brewery. Massachusetts used a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant to help local farmers tap into the $14.3 billion craft brewing industry. Photo courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti.

Over the years, the way we look at food in America has changed and evolved. As people explore new tastes, adjust their diets and become more familiar with new ingredients, it is up to farmers and ranchers to stay innovative and responsive to new demands. Through my role at USDA I often visit with farmers and ranchers about what it takes to grow their businesses, to remain competitive in a global market, and how USDA is an important partner to help meet these challenges.

The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), administered by USDAs Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed to support research projects that improve the marketing, transportation and distribution of U.S. agricultural products. FSMIP is a collaboration between Federal and State governments that puts matching funds from each towards projects that bring new opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

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Secretary’s Column: Another Step Forward Towards a Healthier Next Generation

This week at USDA, we took several steps forward in the fight for a healthier future for our nation’s children.

On Tuesday, we rolled out new proposed guidelines that will make sure only healthy foods and beverages are allowed to be marketed to kids at school. The new guidelines will ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices. Read more »

Midwest Climate Hub to Help Producers, Coordinate Climate-Related Agricultural Research

Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watershed

Producers endure the weather across the Midwest and wonder if it will be too wet to plant, too wet to harvest, too wet to spray, or if the rain will come at the right time to produce a bumper or just an average crop. In all of the presentations I have given on climate and agriculture across the Midwest, during the last year the prevailing question has been about whether the increasing variation in precipitation and temperature we’re experiencing is the “new” normal during the growing season. Producers point to the last four growing seasons as examples of the variation they face each year: 2010 was hot and wet during the grain-filling stage of growth causing the crops to mature more quickly, 2011 was almost normal with some dry periods during the last part of the growing season, 2012 was a drought year, and 2013 experienced two different extremes. In 2013, it was wet in the early growing season, delaying and in some places preventing planting, followed by a dry summer.  Across the Midwest, the early spring rains are increasing erosion from fields. Producers are now asking what they can do to protect their natural resources and the crops that depend on them, and what the next season will be like. If these extremes continue, how do they adapt their farming operations? Read more »

Addressing California’s Water Challenges Through Action and Collaboration

Cross posted from DOI News:

California is in the throes of the worst drought in the 160 years during which records have been kept. As a result, the state’s overextended water system is in crisis. All segments of California’s economy— one of the largest in the world—are experiencing the effects of this drought. The economic, social and environmental impacts on agriculture, industry, jobs, communities’ drinking water and the ecosystem will reverberate across the country, and that is why actions need to be taken to address the situation not just in the short term, but also to sustain the state over the long run.

Following two years of dry conditions, on January 17, California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency for drought. Subsequently, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce have committed to helping California prepare for and lessen drought impacts. In addition, as called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the National Drought Resilience Partnership, which includes the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy, will help align federal resources and policies to better support response to drought impacts and build long term sustainability and resilience in California’s water system. Read more »