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Category: Food and Nutrition

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »

Nation’s Museums and Libraries Feed Minds and Bodies this Summer

While providing children with nutritious meals is the top priority of USDA’s summer meal programs, activity programming is also important for healthy kids.

While providing children with nutritious meals is the top priority of USDA’s summer meal programs, activity programming is also important for healthy kids.

Libraries remain a part of the fiber of American communities, with over 123,000 operating across the nation.  And in states like Idaho, libraries provided children with more than just books!  For the second straight year, the Idaho Commission for Libraries teamed up with AmeriCorps VISTAs and local summer meal sites to offer “Literacy in the Park”, a program to bring fun educational activities to existing Summer Food Service Program meal sites.

They say “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”!  But “Literacy in the Park” proved that you can certainly add to it!  Julie Armstrong from the Commission for Libraries said, “We thought, if kids are already at the parks eating, let’s offer them literacy activities along with those meals.”  Ten AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers from the Idaho Foodbank assisted with literacy programs at different Boise sites, each sponsored by the Idaho Foodbank and the Oasis Food Center. Read more »

Summer Meals Success, Thanks to Our Essential Partners

These students aren’t only getting free meals this summer; they are also exposed to learning in the library.

These students aren’t only getting free meals this summer; they are also exposed to learning in the library.

Collaborative efforts are the heart and soul of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, and these successful partnerships were thriving across the nation this summer.   Many organizations, non-profits, schools, churches, and others have teamed with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to expand this vital program.  And now that summer has come to an end, the success stories we’re hearing are music to our ears.

Among them, we’re highlighting two unique organizations with amazing stories to share. Read more »

Organic 101: Connecting Farmers and Producers to USDA Resources

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a multi-billion dollar industry. To meet this demand, USDA offers programs and services to assist the organic community and educate consumers that purchase organic products.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a multi-billion dollar industry. To meet this demand, USDA offers programs and services to assist the organic community and educate consumers that purchase organic products.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow across the country, representing a $35 billion dollar industry in 2013.  To meet this demand, USDA has initiated a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with the resources they need to ensure the continued growth of the organic sector domestically and abroad.

Some programs have the specific purpose of assisting organic farmers, ranchers, and handlers. Other programs are open to the general public, including organic operations. USDA has a one-stop-shop for information on all of our programs and opportunities for the organic community.  From research and education, to market information and technical assistance, we have something for you. Read more »

Be Prepared! Do YOU Know USDA’s Role in Helping Families Following Disasters and Emergencies?

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

USDA wants the public to know about the resources available to their families following a disaster or emergency.

Ensuring our Nation’s children and families in need have access to healthy meals is a priority at USDA and that promise is of particular emphasis during times of disaster or emergency.  Throughout National Preparedness Month this September, USDA recognizes the importance of being ready and wants the public to know the resources available to them during a time of great need.

When disasters strike, it’s not only important for you and your family to be prepared, it’s also critical that your community be prepared.  USDA supports local communities by providing access to healthy meals in emergency situations.  Schools, emergency shelters, and summer sites that operate the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, or Summer Food Service programs may provide access to healthy meals for children in such events.  Child care institutions may also serve as emergency shelters in a disaster situation. Read more »

The Cafeteria is the Biggest Classroom in the School

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Linda Mailhot, Head Cook, Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor Maine on September 24, 2014

Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) is a small school with a big vision, located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Here we strive to promote a healthy lifestyle for our students through physical activity and nutrition education.

The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the school where students are taught to make healthy choices for themselves beginning in kindergarten. Students progress each day through a fruit-and-vegetable bar and an entrée station. Along this route they choose the nutritious and appealing foods they need to build a balanced meal according to the new school meal standards issued by USDA. Many of our entrée offerings are multinational, which is a great way to introduce students to nutritional foods from a variety of cultures. By empowering students in the cafeteria, they learn to make healthy choices for life. Read more »