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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 »

A Kansas Community Dedicated to Providing Access to Locally Grown Food

On August 5, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark visited the Lawrence Farmers Market in recognition of National Farmers Market Week.

On August 5, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark visited the Lawrence Farmers Market in recognition of National Farmers Market Week.

Lawrence, Kansas has been building a local/regional foods movement since the early 1970’s.  In other words – they made local foods “cool” long before the local food movement and Farmer’s Markets gained in popularity across the nation.

The movement started with the creation of a retail food cooperative called the “The Merc” in 1974. The cooperative started with four individuals and currently includes more than 6,800.  The Lawrence farmers market has grown from a single Saturday morning market to four markets each week supported by regional producers that grow everything from asparagus to zucchini – from “A” to “Z” in the fruit and vegetable alphabet. Read more »

Reclaiming Spaces: One Farmers Market at a Time

The Ferry Building dominated the busy port as a main boat terminus. As cars and highways became more popular, the terminal went into disrepair. Now, farmers and vendors have revived the space, making the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market one of California’s most famous farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Jim Forest.

The Ferry Building dominated the busy port as a main boat terminus. As cars and highways became more popular, the terminal went into disrepair. Now, farmers and vendors have revived the space, making the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market one of California’s most famous farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Jim Forest.

At the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., the farmers market is nestled among other vendors including artists, craftsmen, and chefs all housed within colorful shipping containers.  Repurposed shipping containers are housing farmers markets on undeveloped lots in, Boston and Raleigh as well. Photo courtesy of Leonel Lima Ponce

At the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., the farmers market is nestled among other vendors including artists, craftsmen, and chefs all housed within colorful shipping containers. Repurposed shipping containers are housing farmers markets on undeveloped lots in, Boston and Raleigh as well. Photo courtesy of Leonel Lima Ponce

Consumer demand for local food is driving the expansion of farmers markets into places of all shapes, sizes, and locations. Ferry terminals, train depots, grain mills and shipping containers all can, and are, housing farmers markets across the country.  There are 8,268 markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, a 76 percent increase since 2008.  Managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the directory listings reflect continued growth and demand in every region of the country. Today farmers markets are as diverse as the communities they serve and can be found in unique rural and urban spaces across the country.

Built in 1903, the Southern Railways Station in Knoxville, Tenn., was a symbol of America’s great railroad heritage. The terminal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its late 19th century architecture and its prominent role in Tennessee railroad industry.  Today, the main building has been repurposed into office spaces and a banquet hall that hosts a winter farmers market.  Last winter, the depot hosted its first market, offering 30 vendors an opportunity to extend their season and continue the tradition of celebrating Knoxville’s heritage. Read more »

Learning All Summer Long with WINS Interns at USDA

Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) interns with USDA Under Secretary Avalos at the closing ceremony at American University in Washington, DC.

Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS) interns with USDA Under Secretary Avalos at the closing ceremony at American University in Washington, DC.

With over 3 million students graduating college during the 2013-2014 school year, what sets you apart from your peers? The answer: internships.

 Internships provide an immeasurable benefit to both the intern and to organizations like USDA.  In addition to gaining valuable work experience, internships are a great way to network, apply classroom knowledge to real-life, on-the-job situations, and gain confidence. Read more »

USDA Reaches Out to Farmers with Sweet Conservation Incentives

Pineapples are an iconic crop in Puerto Rico, and they’re emerging again as a popular farming enterprise on the island.

Pineapples are an iconic crop in Puerto Rico, and they’re emerging again as a popular farming enterprise on the island.

NRCS staff members visit with Puerto Rico pineapple farmers in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

NRCS staff members visit with Puerto Rico pineapple farmers in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

Pineapples are emerging again as a popular farming enterprise in Puerto Rico because of a new variety that packs more sweetness and boasts stronger harvests. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with pineapple farmers to prevent erosion, improve soil health and keep water clean downstream by encouraging them to use conservation practices.

The new variety is the golden pineapple, or Ananas Commosus vra MD2, which produces so much more fruit than the traditional Cabezona pineapple that farm acreage planted in pineapples on the island has doubled from 250 acres in 2011 to 500 acres this year.  Read more »