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Category: Food and Nutrition

What’s On Your Plate This Fourth of July?

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Happy Birthday America! It’s the Fourth of July and time to celebrate American life. What do you have planned? A family reunion at the beach? A backyard barbeque with family and friends? A picnic in the park? Or a few friends on your patio? Here are some quick and easy tips to make your family’s Fourth of July meals and snacks healthy and delicious!

Get creative and let MyPlate be your guide. Read more »

Opening New Markets, Expanding Menu Choices

The National Potato Board’s efforts to increase economic growth and market viability for American potato farmers have had an impact on the industry. In 2013, U.S. potato exports were a record $1.6 billion.

The National Potato Board’s efforts to increase economic growth and market viability for American potato farmers have had an impact on the industry. In 2013, U.S. potato exports were a record $1.6 billion.

America’s ag promotion groups work to educate consumers, as well as research and promote our nation’s agricultural products. Whether potatoes or pork, mangos or cotton, soybeans or almonds, ag promotion groups help consumers make informed choices and learn about new products.

Although all ag promotion groups do have a similar goal and purpose – to pool their resources to increase demand and long-term economic growth for their  industries – they all accomplish this in different ways, tailoring their efforts to apply strategies that work best for each commodity. Read more »

SNAP Achieves Record High Payment Accuracy Rate for Seventh Year in a Row

Each year, as required by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, USDA issues the payment accuracy rate for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) nationally and state by state.

I’m happy to announce that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 SNAP payment accuracy rate is an impressive 96.8 percent.  This is an all-time high, and is the seventh year in a row with record-breaking accuracy rates.   Payment accuracy means providing the correct amount of SNAP benefits to eligible households. The aim is to make sure that no one gets too little or too much in benefits, but gets exactly the amount they are intended to receive under the law.  This historically high rate indicates that states are continuing to reduce improper payments in SNAP and are making sure that eligible citizens get the right amount of benefits. Read more »

The Food Bank-Food Hub Connection: A ‘Win-Win’ for Local Economies

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Across the country, food banks are committed to providing healthy food for those in need. Food banks also have a vested interest in building stronger local economies and creating additional opportunities for the communities they serve.

There are currently more than 200 food banks in the country, with more than 63,000 affiliated agencies like (food pantries and shelters). This network distributes more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to needy Americans each year.

Strategic integration of local foods into a food bank’s operation is one way to create economic opportunities for farmers and provide fresh food to families and children. This is especially important in rural areas, which have rich agricultural assets but tend to experience higher poverty rates than metropolitan areas. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Local Markets, Local Growth

Many consumers want to “buy local” and support their local economy with their purchases. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results indicate that nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Today, local food is a more than $7 billion industry and growing, according to industry estimates. The excitement around this market is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs, and improving quality of life. Read more »

June is Dairy Month – a Time to Say Thanks to America’s Milk Producers

Roger Erickson takes pride in the success of his dairy operation in Clark County, Wis. NRCS photo.

Roger Erickson takes pride in the success of his dairy operation in Clark County, Wis. NRCS photo.

The next time you eat a cheese sandwich, drink a glass of cold milk, have an ice cream cone or a cup of yogurt on a walk through the park, thank the dairy farmers who made it all possible.  Now is a great time to do that because June is Dairy Month.

The dairy industry is an important economic engine in America. The farm value of milk production is second only to beef among livestock industries and is equal to corn. Milk is produced in all 50 states, with the major producing states in the West and North. Dairy farms, overwhelmingly family-owned and managed, are generally members of producer cooperatives. Read more »