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

Category: Food and Nutrition

USDA… Helping Produce Businesses Meet Consumer and Retailer Demand

Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.

Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.

Ensuring that its food meets the demands of its retailers and the consumers who eat it is essential to the success of any produce business. This builds consumer trust and helps retailers confidently supply the food we all eat. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers audits through the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) & Good Handling Practices (GHPs) Audit Verification Program.

A voluntary service provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), GAPs audits verify that fruits and vegetables are grown, packed, handled, and stored safely. The audits certify that operations are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and industry-recognized food safety practices that can minimize the risks of food-borne illnesses. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division employees accomplish this through activities like evaluating food safety plans, walking the farm looking for food safety risks and performing unannounced visits to farms and facilities. The audits focus on waste management, such as animal manure; water quality; wildlife; and worker health and hygiene. Read more »

Six Reasons SuperTracker Is the Answer to Conquering New Year’s Resolutions

Reach your health goals with SuperTracker.

Reach your health goals with SuperTracker.

If you are like millions of Americans, thinking about New Year’s Resolutions makes your hands sweat.  Don’t worry. USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has got you covered.

Whether you want to lose weight, get more calcium in your diet, or increase your activity, SuperTracker is here to help. With these six steps, you’ll be well on your way to making your New Year’s Resolution a reality! Read more »

New York’s City Harvest Wins U.S. Food Waste Challenge Competition

City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.

City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.

Beginning in August, food banks across the country competed to see who could sign up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.  From among the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, the champion is City Harvest in New York City, which won by signing up 114 donors to the Challenge.  City Harvest will have a private meeting with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be awarded six suite tickets to attend either an NBA or NHL game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  The tickets were donated by Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE), owner of the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and Verizon Center.  Since 2011, MSE has recovered and donated 7,377 pounds of wholesome unsold food from its events to D.C. Central Kitchen, which translates to approximately 5,600 meals.

“We appreciate City Harvest’s longstanding commitment to food rescue and congratulate them for signing up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge,” said Secretary Vilsack.  “The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste. Organizations like City Harvest get this food to people who need it while reducing the amount of food that ends up in our country’s landfills.” Read more »

Initial Launch of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success Training Program

Feeding students healthy, tasty and nutritious school meals can be a challenge.  Just ask any one of the thousands of school nutrition professionals who carry out the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.  They have to balance menu planning following nutrition standards, financial management, and inventory management, all while making meals that will be enjoyed by students – not always an easy audience.  It is a testament to their dedication that over 90 percent of America’s schools have now implemented the improved standards found in the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010.

USDA is working hard to find ways to continue to support their efforts. One way we are doing that is a new program that we recently piloted in Mississippi that provides free training through a partnership with the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). The Team Up For School Nutrition Success Training (Team Up) is tailored to schools and covers topics like menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics, and strategies to reduce plate waste.  

Another partner in this initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is grateful for the hard work being done in our country’s school cafeterias, but also recognizes that some may need a little help. When she heard about our initiative, she took the time to make a video to not only thank and encourage the dedicated school food service professional around the country, but to encourage them to take advantage of Team Up. Hear with the First Lady had to say about Team Up: 

Read more »

USDA Marketing Orders Help Industries Climb to New Heights

The California Almond Marketing Order enables the Almond Board of California to conduct nutritional research about the benefits of eating almonds. Their innovative research and development projects that fuel cutting-edge marketing efforts have helped California’s almond yield quadruple in the past 30 years. Photo Courtesy of Healthaliciousness.

The California Almond Marketing Order enables the Almond Board of California to conduct nutritional research about the benefits of eating almonds. Their innovative research and development projects that fuel cutting-edge marketing efforts have helped California’s almond yield quadruple in the past 30 years. Photo Courtesy of Healthaliciousness.

Thanks to the Pistachio Marketing Order, the industry has increased its standing. Since its development in 2004 up through the 2012-2013 season, the volume of inshell pistachios has increased from 165 million pounds in a production year to 385 million pounds. Photo Courtesy of Kreg Steppe

Thanks to the Pistachio Marketing Order, the industry has increased its standing. Since its development in 2004 up through the 2012-2013 season, the volume of inshell pistachios has increased from 165 million pounds in a production year to 385 million pounds. Photo Courtesy of Kreg Steppe

Every successful business must have a solid plan to successfully take it from the initial startup phase all the way through its push to expand its operations after the business matures. The same can be said for an industry looking to reach new heights in its lifecycle. A concerted emphasis must be placed on strengthening research, product development, and marketing efforts. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees 28 fruit and vegetable marketing order boards and committees. These entities develop regulations that moderate the flow of high quality produce, benefitting growers, handlers, and consumers. These groups also create research, marketing, and promotional campaigns that help expand the reach of the industry’s products. 

Through the AMS Marketing Order and Agreement Division (MOAD), industries approach the agency to establish a way to overcome marketing barriers. These efforts help growers and handlers within a geographic area increase their sales. The issues the committees focus on vary. For example, the Pistachio Marketing Order established reporting and Aflatoxin testing requirements on inshell and shelled pistachios. Pistachios produced in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are now required to be certified as meeting certain minimum quality requirements that are established by the Administrative Committee for Pistachios (ACP). Read more »

Secretary’s Column: 2014, a Year of Action, Partnership and Innovation at USDA

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve. Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments. Read more »