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Donating Wholesome Unsold Food

Liability Concerns Stop Many Restaurants and Supermarkets from Donating Wholesome Unsold Food – Join USDA for a Nov. 12 webinar and learn more about Liability, Food Safety & the Good Samaritan Act.

Liability Concerns Stop Many Restaurants and Supermarkets from Donating Wholesome Unsold Food – Join USDA for a Nov. 12 webinar and learn more about Liability, Food Safety & the Good Samaritan Act.

14.3% of American households found it difficult to put food on the table at some time in 2013, yet 31% of food at the consumer and retail level goes uneaten (USDA ERS).  Of the estimated 133 billion pounds of food that goes uneaten every year, much of it is perfectly safe and nutritious and could have been donated to hunger relief organizations to feed hungry people.  Sadly, much of this perfectly good food ends up in landfills.

How can we change this situation? Many managers at farms, food processors, supermarkets, dining facilities, and restaurants say they are worried about donating wholesome unsold food because of fear of liability.  Some say they don’t have the proper food safety processes in place to handle food recovery and donation programs. Read more »

Streamlined Approach for Including a “Non-Genetically Engineered” Statement on Certified Organic Meat and Poultry Products

This is the twenty-first installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Organic meat and poultry producers can now use a streamlined process to get approval for labels verifying that their products do not include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released new procedures for including a “non-genetically engineered” statement on the label of organic meat and poultry products.  This is consistent with organic regulations, which have always prohibited the use of GE in all organic products.  Now, with the new process, it will be easier for certified organic entities to add these claims to existing FSIS-approved products, speeding up the label review process. Read more »

Two Years after Sandy: USDA Continues to Aid in Recovery and Disaster Prevention Efforts

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

About two years ago, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on several states in the Northeast, causing $68 billion dollars’ worth of damage to critical infrastructure, businesses, homes and landscapes. Since 2012, multiple agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have remained committed to helping the region build back stronger and better prepared for future storms.

To help the victims recover from Sandy and prevent future devastation in vulnerable flood areas, NRCS has invested about $120 million in Emergency Watershed Floodplain Easement Program, a program that helps restore and protect lands vulnerable to flooding. Read more »

On the Road with the Hypoxia Task Force

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

If you ever wonder about the future of agriculture, go no further than Brighton, Illinois.  Just 10 minutes with 15-year-old Adlai Schetter will reinforce that stewardship of private working lands is in good hands. It will also convince you that cover crops and second generation biofuels are a dynamic part of our agricultural future.  On the day I visited with Adlai at his parents’ farm, he summed up his vision in a professional PowerPoint presentation to an audience of more than 20 state and federal officials.

Adlai spends a lot of his free time researching the effectiveness of different cover crop seed mixes that include rye and radishes. After his formal presentation, we walked over to his test plots.  I asked him if he’s determining which cover crop work best and he responded that “they are like players on a football team, they each have important roles.”  Adlai understands how to make these cover crops work for him.  While other farmers may be looking at bare fields this winter and early next spring, Adlai and his parents get to watch their cover crops scavenge nutrients, improve soil porosity and suppress weeds. This frees up time for Adlai to spend on another passion – the second generation biofuel miscanthus.  Adlai puts his harvested miscanthus to work fueling a burner that heats a cavernous building that houses farm equipment and the farm’s office.  Ten bales a day of miscanthus and corn stover keep the building a comfortable 72 degrees throughout the cold Illinois winter.  This winter he will experiment with using even less fuel.  Asked if he gets any school credit for all this work, Adlai responds, “not really.” Read more »

Collier County, Florida, Features Highly Successful Farm to School Program

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches.  In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”

By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.

“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program. Read more »

Pollinators-An Indicator of a Healthy Mother Earth

Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary.  Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.  Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.

Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health.  Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache.  These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks.  All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators. Read more »