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Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »

“Seeding” the Next Crop of Scientists

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2014 marks the eighth year of “Pumping Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College,” an innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational outreach program developed and administered by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) employees David Weller and Kathleen Parker in cooperation with Washington State University-Pullman (WSU) and other partners.

“The goal of the program is enhance the flow of students from underserved and rural communities into STEM professions. We do this by engaging students of all ages in one-on-one and hands-on STEM education and other activities,” explains Weller, who leads the ARS Root Diseases and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman. Read more »

States Use Regional Partnership, Innovation to Protect Rivers and a Way of Life

The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls.  Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.

The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls. Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its picturesque lakes, cascading streams and dramatic coastlines. The many rivers of the Pacific Northwest—the Yakima, the Snake, Snohomish, Willamette, Klamath, Boise, and others—are part of the cultural, economic and environmental foundation of the region. These waters are meaningful for local Native American Tribes, agricultural production, industries who rely on water resources, and local communities and tourists from around the world that enjoy fishing and other forms of recreation along Northwestern rivers and streams.

It’s no surprise that the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are interested in protecting their rivers to preserve these values, and the wildlife and ecosystems they’re a part of. More surprising, however, is the innovative way the states are collaborating to do it. Read more »

USDA Continues to Exceed Small Business Goals

The Federal Government recently announced that it met its annual government contracting goal for small business. The government contracting goals are measured as a percentage of overall government contracts awarded. The Federal Government mandates 23 percent to be awarded of all prime contracts to small businesses and for Fiscal Year 2013, the government awarded 23.9 percent.

USDA has consistently met or exceeded its small business goal and received another “A” for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.  In fact, USDA awarded 54.16 percent of eligible contracts to small businesses, exceeding the 53.5 percent goal provided the Department by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Read more »

How FNS Partners Take Their Summer Feeding Sites to the Next Level

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partners serve a vital role in the success of the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  These important relationships are critical to helping operate and expand summer meals and sites so that no child or teen goes hungry when school is out.

Evaluating their best practices and listening to their anecdotes confirms that kids truly depend on these healthy meals over the course of the summer.  During the first day of the summer feeding program, the Hopkins County Family YMCA in Kentucky served over 500 meals.  But that’s not the only difference they made that day.  The director was at the store picking up supplies, when the cashier asked about her purchase.  The director explained the details of the program and the woman’s eyes filled with tears, as she relayed that her husband just lost his job and the family had become desperate.  She was put at ease knowing that the Summer Food Service Program will be available to feed her children this summer. Read more »

North Carolina Campus Kicks off the School Year with a Focus on Healthy Eating

UNCW Peer Educator and MyPlate On Campus Ambassador, Jessica Jones, teaches a fellow Seahawk about healthy eating using food models and the MyPlate icon.

UNCW Peer Educator and MyPlate On Campus Ambassador, Jessica Jones, teaches a fellow Seahawk about healthy eating using food models and the MyPlate icon.

As a registered dietitian, I’m a big proponent of nutrition education for kids and adults alike. MyPlate On Campus, USDA’s initiative that promotes healthy eating on college campuses through peer-to-peer education, is a unique effort to reach young adults during a key life stage. The program now boasts over 2,300 MyPlate On Campus Ambassadors who inspire and promote healthy food habits at universities and colleges nationwide. Read below about how one North Carolina campus brings MyPlate to life for their students:

Guest post by Courtney Simmons, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, Campus Dietitian, and Jessica Jones, Peer Educator, Health Promotion, University of North Carolina Wilmington

College – a time of transition, not only in an academic sense, but also in a personal “taking charge of your own health” sense. Most first year students are thinking about all the choices they get to make without guardian oversight, including their food choices! They can now choose what and when to eat and drink for themselves. Mom and Dad are no longer telling them to “stop with the junk food,” “clean the plate,” or “eat their veggies”. Although this seems like the ultimate dream come true and the bells of freedom are ringing, students without the knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices may not be getting all the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy! Read more »