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Knowledge and Passion: A Student Intern’s Perspective

National Scholar Atiya Stewart

National Scholar Atiya Stewart cultivated her passions through internships.

I’m not sure that there are many 1890 National Scholar interns who are “ambassadors” of their university and who are planning a career in farming. But then, I never considered myself an average student. My experience during my undergraduate years perhaps is not typical. Not only was I a USDA 1890 National Scholar, but I also served as the “queen” of my university all while maintaining a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.

Though I never envisioned myself at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, my undergraduate experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter where you attend school. What matters is how hard you work, getting an education and taking advantage of opportunities. The most important opportunities that I made sure I’d take advantage of as an undergraduate student were internships, which I believe are imperative for students to undertake prior to graduating. Read more »

Local Foods in Schools Bring Rural Communities Together

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce

Cortez Middle School students sampling produce from the garden.

From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.

To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities. Read more »

USDA Graded Cage-Free Eggs: All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Certified Egg Facts infographic

AMS verifies cage-free claims for shell eggs by visiting the farms twice each year to ensure that the eggs are in fact coming from a cage-free flock. (Click to view a larger version)

When it comes to purchasing eggs, consumers have interests that go well beyond what they see in the carton.  For many buyers, where that egg came from and how it was produced are just as important as the finished product.  Organic, locally produced, cage-free, and free range are just a few of the marketing claims consumers will find on the carton, as producers try to communicate the attributes of their product.  To provide additional assurance to their customers of the validity of marketing claims, shell egg producers often enlist the services of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

In recent months, a long list of large volume food buyers – including restaurants, grocers, distributors and more – have announced they will transition to sourcing eggs and egg products only from cage-free production systems.  You can learn more about this trend in a recent USDA Blog post.  Many shell egg suppliers have already found a way to assure customers that products marketed as cage-free are indeed sourced from such systems: when USDA Graded eggs are also identified as cage-free, they must undergo a review process to verify the claim is truthful. Read more »

The Year of the Flood

Psylia King providing application information

Psylia King provides needed application information for D-SNAP benefits in Washington Parish, La.

Incidents described as “thousand year storms and floods” and “the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy” claimed the lives of more than 58 people in Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina over the last year.  These disasters often remind us of the devastating impacts that families and their communities face after they strike.

After emergency life saving operations, food and shelter assistance are the most important priorities with which emergency managers must contend.  It was during these times that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) responded to 22 incidents by providing needed nutrition assistance.  More than half of these disasters involved severe and widespread flooding, including the most recent floods that affected residents in 22 parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more »

Restored Wetlands Provide Critical Habitat for Migratory Birds, Many Other Species

Lyn and Jim Des Marais

Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont, are committed to protecting the wetlands on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek watershed. Photo by Amy Overstreet.

Wetlands and wildlife – they’re made for each other. Wetlands provide critical habitat, shelter food and places to raise young.

Landowners across the country are voluntarily restoring and protecting wetlands on private lands. This not only provides high-value wildlife habitat but provides many other benefits, such as cleaner water (wetlands act as filters!) and reduced flooding risk (they store water!). Read more »

Kenyan Credits McGovern-Dole Program for Changing His Life

Peter Mumo of Kenya meets with Amy Harding, deputy director of the FAS Food Assistance Division

Peter Mumo of Kenya meets with Amy Harding, deputy director of the FAS Food Assistance Division, in Washington. Photo credit: Steve Taravella, United Nations World Food Program

As a young boy in eastern Kenya, Peter Mumo faced a life of poverty, hunger and illness. That is until he started receiving school meals at the age of nine through the USDA McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. After that, his life turned around. He started to gain weight, his health improved and he began doing well in school.

And now, at age 28, he is in Des Moines, Iowa, to take part in a six-week business and entrepreneurship training program hosted by Drake University as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The Fellowship is the flagship program of the Obama Administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking. Read more »