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

Organic Cost Share Assistance Expands Opportunities for Farmers

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers.  Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.

Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million. Read more »

Reap What You Sow: Choctaw Children Learn about Gardening and Cooking

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

“How many of you like vegetables?”  The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses.  But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight.  A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit.  A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite.  The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.

Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce.  The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »

Produce Pilot Ready to Take Root in Schools

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Whether it’s trying on a new pair of shoes or eating a new item from your favorite restaurant, there’s always a feeling of excitement when you try something new. Here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we get that same feeling when we are able to create new opportunities for our nation’s producers. That’s why we’re excited to announce that AMS and our sister agency—the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)—have launched a new pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The new pilot program—established by the 2014 Farm Bill—is part of USDA’s continued commitment to create and expand opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers.  The pilot will open doors for American producers, giving them an additional opportunity to supply quality, fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in up to eight states. Read more »

Food Bank Partner Sign-up Competition Extended to September 15 with New “Suite” Incentive

USDA volunteers harvest food for a local food bank during a gleaning event in Clinton, MD.

USDA volunteers harvest food for a local food bank during a gleaning event in Clinton, MD.

Food banks around the country have engaged in a friendly competition all month long to get the most food donors to sign up as participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the food bank that signs up the most donors to be honored in an event hosted by the Department of Agriculture.  We are now extending the deadline for the competition to September 15th.

If you are still on the fence, maybe the experience of one of our Challenge partners will convince you. Read more »

Back to School, Back to Healthy After-School Snacking

Fun-Shaped Mini Hass Avocado and Cheese Sandwiches make eating nutritious avocados fun.

Fun-Shaped Mini Hass Avocado and Cheese Sandwiches make eating nutritious avocados fun.

PeanutAllergyFacts.org contains videos and other materials that highlight the importance of food allergy management and offering resources to schools.

PeanutAllergyFacts.org contains videos and other materials that highlight the importance of food allergy management and offering resources to schools.

Kids love to snack.  But snacking—if done right—doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There are plenty of tasty and healthy options available that will help satisfy the snack-attack of even the pickiest eaters.

Incorporating fresh fruit, like watermelon, into after-school snacks is a great choice for kids who have a bit of a sweet tooth.  And, as an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C, a two-cup serving of watermelon packs a good nutritional punch that any parent can appreciate.  Watermelon Sandwich Wraps can be a perfect after-school snack.  For more creative ideas on how to serve this healthy treat, take a look at the top ten ways to enjoy watermelon

Read more »

Updated Food Purchasing System Keeps USDA on Top of its Game

USDA’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) continues to streamline food purchases for the department and all federal agencies.  New updates to the system help save time for bidders wanting to supply quality products to USDA food programs.

USDA’s Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) continues to streamline food purchases for the department and all federal agencies. New updates to the system help save time for bidders wanting to supply quality products to USDA food programs.

In today’s busy world of technological advances, it’s important to both evaluate the paths that have already been taken and find ways to improve upon the progress that’s already been made. This spring, we talked about how the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) streamlined the purchases for five unique agencies. Earlier this month, the system reached another milestone as it went through an update and re-launch that was on time and within budget.

The system—which was used by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and four other agencies to deliver nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods to programs—is now primed to continue serving hundreds of businesses, states, and program recipients across the country. A multi-agency team of employees worked together on programming, testing, and training, to create an updated system that provides increased flexibility and improved functionality. Read more »