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Category: Food and Nutrition

Breaking Down Barriers to Address Food Insecurity

A woman checking food

USDA engages in extensive partner engagement and collaboration with both traditional and non-traditional partners, including tribal organizations.

No American should have to go hungry.  USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs make great strides in reaching those in need, but challenges and barriers persist to eradicating food insecurity in our nation.  That’s where leadership and partnerships come into play.

Earlier this month, FNS had the opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion on the obstacles faced on effectively communicating to specific populations at the 2016 Feeding America Annual Conference in Chicago.  The dialogue focused on reaching the most vulnerable Americans: those in Tribal communities, teens and our nation’s proud military veterans.  The hurdles to reach all three are unique, and strategies require nuance, understanding and a bold commitment to better connect individuals with nutrition assistance information. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud that her agency creates opportunities and provides tools for American organic producers to sell their products at home and abroad.

Elanor Starmer is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which facilitates the strategic marketing of agricultural products in the U.S. and internationally. Prior to becoming AMS Administrator, Starmer was a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and has been with the department since 2011. This interview focused on AMS’s National Organic Program.

“The USDA isn’t one or the other, it’s all of the above. We serve organic producers, non-organic producers and everyone else as well as we possibly can.” – Elanor Starmer Read more »

What Are You Doing a Month from Now?

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week graphic

We’re looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week with markets across the nation, August 7-13! Market managers and organizers can download graphics and templates to create their own celebration materials.

What are you doing August 7 through 13? That’s National Farmers Market Week – a time to celebrate the farmers, ranchers and local food businesses, as well as the communities that support them. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially declared August 7 through August 13, 2016 as the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week, highlighting the key role that farmers markets play in bringing communities together around agriculture. And with more than 8,500 farmers markets around the country, there are lots of opportunities to celebrate!

I will be celebrating that week by visiting markets across the nation, before wrapping up the week at the USDA’s Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 12. You can celebrate at your local market too! The National Farmers Market Directory makes it convenient to find farmers markets in your area with weekday, weekend, and evening options. Read more »

Does Your Smoked Brisket Make the Grade?

Cooked brisket

Official USDA quality grade labels provide assurance that your beef cuts meet specific quality thresholds that are individually assessed by a select staff of just over 140 skilled and highly trained USDA beef graders.

I live for barbeque season. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of getting that meat done just right, and nothing like the gratification that comes with sharing it with friends and family gathered on a sunny summer’s day.

When it comes to successful barbeque, I have a bit more skin in the game than most.  You see, for me a quality eating experience at a family or community function isn’t just a personal goal – it’s a professional calling.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is committed to helping meat and poultry producers market their high quality products to consumers across the nation (and the world), and quality is the name of our game. Read more »

SNAP Farmers Market Webpage Streamlined, Updated

Farmers’ market in Texas

Shoppers explore the healthy food choices available at one of America’s farmers markets.

Expanding access to the healthy foods available at farmers markets and farm stands for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been – and continues to be – a USDA priority. For several years now, we’ve provided funding to equip farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with the electronic technology they need to redeem SNAP benefits. The results speak for themselves. In 2008, there were only 753 SNAP-authorized markets and farmers. Today, that number has grown to more than 6,400 – more than eight times the number of SNAP-authorized farmers markets compared to when the Obama Administration first took office. Read more »

A Momentous Change is Underway in the Egg Case

Hens outside

Less than 30 million of the over 300 million hens that lay our nation’s eggs are raised in cage free systems. AMS is committed to working with the U.S. egg industry to facilitate their efforts to address this challenge.

Have you been to a supermarket to buy a carton of eggs lately?  If so, you may have found an array of food marketing claims on the packages.  All natural, organic, cage-free, pasture-raised, free range, non-GMO, raised without antibiotics, Omega-3 enriched and vegetarian-fed diet are just a small sample of the many claims consumers might see in the egg case. The modern food shopper is inundated by choice.

From its inception, the role of AMS has been to facilitate an efficient, fair, and competitive marketing system to benefit producers and consumers.  One of the ways AMS accomplishes this is by establishing and applying grade standards to different agricultural products. Terms such as “Grade A” and “Large” have become a trusted part of the American egg vocabulary, helping both farmers and consumers with descriptive labels. Other marketing terms that now appear on egg cartons have evolved to reflect consumers’ demand to understand things like where the eggs come from, how chickens were raised and who raised them. Read more »