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The Results Are In: Judging the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

A sample of plated dishes that were judged at the final round of judging for the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

A sample of plated dishes that were judged at the final round of judging for the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Photo Credit: Megan Smith and Chandler Ray, Dietetic Interns, University of Maryland Dietetic Internship program.

This spring, kids from across the country honed their culinary and nutrition skills to participate in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, and the wait is over to find out who received the top spot from each of the 50 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. The winners of the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge have been announced on Let’s Move’s! website. Find out who the top kid chef is from your area and the recipe that secured them a seat at the White House for the Kids’ State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama.

On May 15th, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion was pleased to take part in the judging of this year’s top two recipes from each area along with representatives from Let’s Move!, the Department of Education, Wholesome Wave Foundation, and most importantly – other kids, including previous winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and recent graduates from Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program. The judges met at the DC Convention Center to personally taste test each of the top dishes, 108 dishes in all! The dishes were prepared by DC Central Kitchen staff and were rated on a scale of 1-5 based on: nutritional value, taste, creativity, originality, affordability, and an essay accompanying the recipe. Kids were also encouraged to reference ChooseMyPlate.gov and incorporate foods from each of MyPlate’s five food groups in their entries. Read more »

Gleaning Sweet Potatoes for a Good Cause

After grading and collecting research data, Larry Adams and his crew fill sweet potato sacks for delivery to the Leland Food Pantry in Leland, Mississippi. There, the freshly dug sweet potatoes will be distributed to low-income families and other needy members of the community. 

Adams, an entomologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Stoneville, Mississippi, figures the potatoes will be made into any number of tasty dishes—from casseroles and pies to chips, gratin and fries. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Waives Fees for National Get Outdoors Day

GetOutdoors Within 100 Miles sign

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell encourages you to get outdoors this weekend.

Summer break is in full swing with kids (and parents) chomping at the bit for some excitement.

On Saturday, June 13, the U.S. Forest Service is inviting families to join thousands of forest explorers for a free, fun-packed day of outdoor adventures in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day.

The event also known as ‘GO Day’ is celebrating its 8th anniversary of inspiring national and local organizations to come together to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of outdoor recreation. Dozens of events on national forests and grasslands will feature opportunities including camping, rock wall climbing, kayaking, biking and archery. Read more »

Bringing the Farm to the City: How a Local Land Grant University is Supporting a Different Kind of Agriculture

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce being grown at the 144 Acre Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation.

This year I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of urban agriculture operations. From California to Cleveland, the ability of individuals to realize the multidimensional benefits of agricultural production and leverage them in an urban context has been nothing short of amazing.

This past week I visited a University that is heavily involved in both the research and extension aspect of urban agriculture — right in the backyard of the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation is located about 20 minutes north of the school’s D.C. campus. Upon arrival I found everything from activists passionate about learning how to best provide their neighbors with fresh produce, to researchers developing improved hydroponics systems; and even students working with community organizations on rice varieties suitable to be grown in urban areas. Read more »

Behind the Scenes of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Jill Auburn

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program, is one of the original members of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Task Force which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems.

This month, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF2) celebrates an important milestone: the sixth anniversary of the first convening of the KYF2 Task Force. Since 2009, the Task Force, a dedicated team of experts from across the Department, has been hard at work in support of USDA’s commitment to local and regional food systems. As we mark this important milestone, we wanted to recognize some of the outstanding USDA employees who have been at the core of this work.

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and manager of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, has been part of the KYF2 Task Force since the beginning. Jill came to USDA in 1998 and has seen the Department’s work on local food evolve. Jill describes the launch of the Task Force as a recognition that “the world has been doing this [local food], and USDA needs to engage. We aren’t the lead on this – our work is being driven by what’s happening in communities around the country – but USDA has a lot of tools to assist.”  The 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills have given USDA many tools and authorities to support local and regional food systems. Read more »

Celebrating Small Cities Month

Anniston Downtown Farmers Market sign

The City of Anniston will use their 2014 AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funds to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Photo courtesy of Anniston Downtown Farmers Market.

June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work.  Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.

Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance.  Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. Read more »