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Category: Food and Nutrition

Five Lessons Learned from USDA’s Farmers Market at Night

Food trucks with people ordering

The USDA Farmers Market also lets AMS observe the impact farmers markets have in local food systems.

Our own USDA Farmers Market, brought to you by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), celebrated 20 years of offering Washington, DC access to farm-fresh products this year.

USDA is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed and experiment with ways that might help them expand. So this season we added evening hours on the third Friday of every month to the USDA Farmers Market.  Local news outlets like The Washington Post and blogs like BYT DC shared our excitement for the first ever USDA Farmers Market at Night. Read more »

First-ever Regional Farm to School Institute Underway in the Northeast

90 school administrators, teachers, food service professionals, and community members gather at the Northeast Farm to School Institute kick-off, held in June on Shelburne Farms’ 1,400-acre campus in northern Vermont.

90 school administrators, teachers, food service professionals, and community members gather at the Northeast Farm to School Institute kick-off, held in June on Shelburne Farms’ 1,400-acre campus in northern Vermont.

This account was written by VT FEED Project Director, Betsy Rosenbluth and Shelburne Farms Public Relations and Marketing Director, Vera Chang.  

As principal of Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., Barrett Williams helps his teachers integrate farm to school pedagogy into curricula by making sure they have planning time during the school day and a stipend to compensate their efforts. Time and resources are limited for teachers who are under rigorous demands to meet school standards. So Williams must be creative to ensure food, farming, nutrition, and place-based learning are part of students’ education. We’re listening to Williams and his peers talk at a round-table workshop that is part of the pioneering, year-long Northeast Farm to School Institute. Williams is one of 90 school administrators, teachers, food service professionals, and community members at the Institute’s kick-off, held on Shelburne Farms’ 1,400-acre campus in northern Vermont. Read more »

Go Local – Promoting Healthy Habits and Boosting Local Communities

Local bakery owner Susan Murray with freshly baked local muffins

Local bakery owner Susan Murray with freshly baked local muffins for school breakfast in Providence schools.

The following guest blog highlights Providence, Rhode Island school district’s exemplary commitment to purchase and source local food into the school meal programs. Going local economically supports RI farms and small businesses and provides opportunities for students to consume healthy, fresh foods and learn how their food is grown and promote healthy food choices.

By Providence Public Schools, Rhode Island

Providence Public School District (PPSD) is the largest school district in Rhode Island, serving 24,000 students.  In the heart of New England, PPSD has had historical ties to locally grown agriculture and food for centuries.  For the past few years, PPSD requires that RI-grown products compose at least 15% of all food purchases annually, helping to economically support the RI food system with local dollars, while promoting the environmental benefits of local land stewardship. Read more »

Sowing Gardens, and Growing Kids Who Love Them

Cherokee Central Schools students participating in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden

Cherokee Central Schools students participate in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden, which is planted with traditional varieties of vegetables grown for generations by the Cherokee people.

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, guest blog writer Katie Rainwater, also a FoodCorps Service Member, shares her remarkable experience at Cherokee Central Schools, a 2014 USDA Farm to School Grantee.

Guest blog by Katie Rainwater, FoodCorps

Imagine this: A bright, sunny fall day in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Fresh, organic greens, lovingly raised in Cherokee Central Schools’ garden, and harvested that same day. Now add 22 elementary students proudly waving signs and banners they decorated the day before, boasting the beauty of their garden bounty, and advertising their Fall Greens Sale. If you ever bought into the idea that “kids don’t like vegetables,” our elementary schoolers could have changed your mind that day. Stationed in front of the school during after-school pick-up time, every car and person within reach received a glowing description of the wondrous greens the students helped grow, the most popular being a local native variety called Creasy Greens. Bedecked in fruit and vegetable costumes, these kids were convincing adults that they should eat their veggies! As a genuine testament to their enthusiasm and love for their harvest, they sold almost all of the 321 pounds of greens harvested that day. Read more »

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm. NRCS photo.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses. Read more »

Bringing More Farmers Markets to Service Members

Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations

The cover of the new Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations, which is filled with effective strategies to bring farmers markets’ community spirit and local food to service members and their families stationed at installations across the country.

As we take time this week to honor America’s veterans, we are also thinking about how we can improve the health and welfare of military communities across the country.  That’s why we are so proud to release the first-ever Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations.  By assisting military installations in establishing farmers markets, the guide will help increase access to fresh, local food for soldiers on military installations.  On-base farmers markets also connect members of the military with their surrounding communities and offer family-friendly gathering places where children can learn where their food comes from.

In a truly collaborative effort, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), created this detailed manual with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), and in partnership with Wholesome Wave.  It explains how commanders can establish and successfully operate farmers markets on military installations. Read more »