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It’s Almost Time to Think about New Year’s Resolutions…Almost!

MyPlate, MyWins landing page

Visit the MyPlate, MyWins landing page on December 28, 2016 to discover healthy eating solutions for 2017!

The holiday season is a wonderful, exciting, and incredibly busy time.  Between the celebrations, family gatherings, and the food (so much food!), healthy eating isn’t likely the first thing on your mind. And that’s OK.

In a few short weeks, many of us will be turning our attention to the new year. What will 2017 bring? What are our personal goals for the year?  Every January there is an overload of information about New Year’s resolutions, and many people will set goals that focus on health, fitness, and nutrition.  But while we often set high hopes on January 1, less than half are still committed to accomplishing our resolutions months later. Read more »

SNAP E&T Boosts Job Skills, Transforms Lives

Administrator Rowe speaking with an attendee at the Jobs NOW! event in San Francisco

Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe (left) speaks with an attendee at the Jobs NOW! event in San Francisco. Photo courtesy: Barbara Utuchian, FNS

On a recent trip to California,  I took part in a wonderful event in San Francisco’s Mission District – also known as “The Mission” – one of the most racially and economically diverse areas in the nation.  After parking the car, Jesus Mendoza Jr., Regional Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region, escorted me to a room buzzing with activity and excitement. Now given my role as Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), you might expect that we were visiting a food bank or a meal program for low-income children.

But this visit wasn’t about food.

It was about jobs! Read more »

USDA Breaks into the Top 10 Best Places to Work

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and others at the newly renovated USDA Child Development Center

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and others at the newly renovated USDA Child Development Center

I would like to congratulate all who work at USDA for the incredible improvement in our ranking in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.  In 2016, for the first time, we have moved into the Top 10 Best Places to Work among large Federal agencies.  When I became Secretary of Agriculture in 2009, one of my first priorities was beginning a cultural transformation of our Department, redoubling our efforts on diversity and inclusion and retooling USDA to be a modern, 21st century employer and premier service provider that better reflects all of the communities we serve.  Participating in this transformation has been one of my most meaningful experiences as Secretary, and I am immensely proud that it has become part of the fabric of our Department.

Over the past eight years, USDA has worked to become a model employer by making it a priority to improve in areas such as communication, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and employee training and development.  Today, as a result of these efforts, I am proud to announce that the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization, has recognized USDA for the strides we have made across our Department to improve the quality of our workplace. Read more »

Working with the Private Sector, Guaranteeing Affordable Housing Opportunities in Rural America

People at Pine Glade Apartments

In 2015, the Pine Glade apartments for elderly and disabled people received USDA funding to modernize 32 affordable apartments in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Groceries, childcare, education, transportation, insurance, utilities: these are just some of the essential places families nationwide spend their paychecks every month. Making ends meet takes hard work, but sometimes even after working long hours and shopping right families need help to make it.

Twenty years ago essential affordable housing opportunities were scarce in rural America. Banks weren’t investing in these opportunities because deals that would build affordable rentals required long-term, patient capital that turned profit much slower than those big, new, luxury apartments in cities and larger towns. Read more »

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director

From left to right: Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director review audit information. In August, Good Natured Family Farms became the first cooperative certified under USDA’s GroupGAP program.

For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.

Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits. Read more »

USDA Unveils Landmark New Rules to Protect Farmers

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking some major steps forward to protect farmers – including swine, beef cattle, and especially poultry growers – from unfair treatment by the often much larger processors who purchase their fully grown hogs, cattle, and chickens. These three rules are another step forward in response to the President’s Competition Initiative announced in April, which has the goal of enhancing competition to help consumers, workers, and small businesses get a fair shake in the economy. Read more »