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Category: International

Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »

Summer Food for Children Demonstration Projects: Finding New Ways to End Childhood Hunger

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe wants to make sure that children and teens have access to healthy meals in and out of school.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe wants to make sure that children and teens have access to healthy meals in and out of school.

When school lets out, millions of children look forward to camps, pools, and blockbuster movies.  However, many children will also experience hunger.  When school is in session, low-income students receive free or reduced-price school meals that help families stretch their food budget.  When the school year ends, those school meals are no longer available to those students and some families will struggle to fill this gap.

We here at the USDA have been working hard to reduce childhood hunger when school is out.  One way we are accomplishing this goal is through the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for Children demonstration project.  The project, funded by Congress in 2010, has shown clear results in reducing very low food security among children, the most severe form of childhood hunger.  A rigorous evaluation indicated that Summer EBT for Children: Read more »

USDA’s National Centers for Animal Health Makes an Impact on Agriculture

Under Secretary Avalos is shown buildings of the south campus by Dr. Elizabeth Lautner

Under Secretary Avalos is shown buildings of the south campus by Dr. Elizabeth Lautner

In February, I had the opportunity to visit USDA’s National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa. This campus hosts employees from both APHIS and ARS, who work together with tremendous collaboration.  ARS employees conduct research on diseases of economic importance to the U.S. livestock and poultry industries. APHIS employees work to protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of our nation’s animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics.

Their critical work in research, biologics, diagnostics, training, and coordination with stakeholders is impressive. It is a true science center where the work is intricate, precise, and timely. The scientific research conducted on the campus supports policy decisions, sets international standards and assures the country and the world that U.S. livestock and livestock products are safe for consumers. Read more »

Child Hunger and the Importance of Keeping Our Communities Healthy and Strong

Child at a school food pantry. Image provided by Feeding America.

Child at a school food pantry. Image provided by Feeding America.

During March, National Nutrition Month®, USDA will highlight various nutrition topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We don’t work on these issues alone however. This guest blog post acknowledges one USDA National Strategic Partner, Feeding America, for the outstanding work they do to address childhood hunger and food insecurity and promote MyPlate. Learn more below:

By Jessica Hager, MA in Social Service Administration, Nutrition Coordinator, Feeding America

Good nutrition, particularly in the first three years of one’s life, is important for establishing a good foundation that has implications for future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.9 million children—1 in 5—under the age of 18 in America live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life (Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. Table 1B.USDA ERS.) Additionally, Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2013 research found that 20 percent or more of the child population in each of 37 states and D.C. live in food-insecure households (Map the Meal Gap 2013, Feeding America).

Read more »

International Researchers Mobilize Against Risky Stowaway Pests

New Zealand has one of the most well-developed forest biosecurity programs in the world. The logs pictured here at the Port of Tauranga were fumigated prior to export to minimize the chance of accidentally spreading forest pests. (U.S. Forest Service/Frank Koch)

New Zealand has one of the most well-developed forest biosecurity programs in the world. The logs pictured here at the Port of Tauranga were fumigated prior to export to minimize the chance of accidentally spreading forest pests. (U.S. Forest Service/Frank Koch)

Sometimes there is more to global trade than meets the eye. While consumers and economies may benefit from expanding market opportunities and a seemingly endless array of readily available goods, harmful pests could be lurking as people and products are transported between countries.

An international research network, including scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, has come together to share information about how exotic animals, diseases and plants can move and spread—and threaten agricultural and natural resources.

The International Pest Risk Mapping Workgroup consists of governmental and academic scientists from around the globe who study potential stowaway pests in order to assess the likelihood of their establishment in new locations and the impacts if and where they spread. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Census of Agriculture Results Tell Story of Unlimited Potential in Rural America

This week, USDA released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides a snapshot of a rural America that remains stable in the face of difficult economic times. While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America.

Census data indicate that the loss of farmland has slowed significantly since 2007, which means that while a total of 72 million acres of farmland have been lost since the 1982 census, we have begun to stem the tide. New tools in the 2014 Farm Bill should help to further slow and perhaps even reverse this trend in some areas of the country.

The results reinforce what we have known for many years: the farm population is aging. While that is a concern, the data also show that the number of young farmers increased slightly and the number of minority farm and ranch principal operators increased dramatically, reflecting the changing face of America as a whole. We are hopeful that USDA policies that attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America will help to continue this trend. Read more »