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Even Paul Bunyan is Overshadowed by the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree – and a Precious 10-year-old Boy

Aaron Urban, front, poses with his four siblings, his parents, Jeremy and Leisha, and Speaker of the House John Boehner before the ceremony to light the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Aaron, who is battling brain cancer, was given the honor after efforts by Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, who also is helping to fulfill his wish of spending the holidays in New York City. (Photo courtesy Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic)

Aaron Urban, front, poses with his four siblings, his parents, Jeremy and Leisha, and Speaker of the House John Boehner before the ceremony to light the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Aaron, who is battling brain cancer, was given the honor after efforts by Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, who also is helping to fulfill his wish of spending the holidays in New York City. (Photo courtesy Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic)

A foggy mist did not deter a crowd of onlookers, politicians and U.S. Forest Service employees as a 10-year-old Maryland boy in a wheelchair enveloped by warm blankets flipped the switch to light the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Front lawn of the nation’s Capital.

C-SPAN recorded the event, including the moment when Speaker of the House John Boehner handed the controls to Aaron Urban, who flipped the switch on the 88-foot white spruce from Minnesota. The ceremony culminated more than a year of work to find, select, harvest and transport the tree found on the Chippewa National Forest. Children from that state made more than 10,000 ornaments – many of them dream catchers in the tradition of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa. Read more »

Local Food, Local Places: Bringing Expertise and Creative Thinking to Community Economic Development

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative. Read more »

USDA Market News – Enhancing Customer Experience

USDA Market News is continuously changing to meet the needs of the dynamic agricultural industry and the data users that we serve.

USDA Market News is continuously changing to meet the needs of the dynamic agricultural industry and the data users that we serve.

Farmers, producers and other agricultural stakeholders depend on USDA Market News data to get the information they need when they need it.  They use the data to evaluate market conditions and trends, make purchasing decisions, and assess movement of agricultural products across the globe.  USDA Market News is continuously changing to meet the needs of the dynamic agricultural industry and the data users that we serve.  Now they can enjoy an enhanced experience.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has released an innovative version of the Market News Portal (website) with simplified navigation, giving users easier, more logical access to the wealth of timely and reliable data available to make better informed decisions – or to compete smarter. Read more »

Fighting Hunger with Healthy Food: The Perfect Recipe for School Children

USDA and its partners help make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s young people.

USDA and its partners help make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s young people.

This guest blog was submitted by Ellen Parker of Massachusetts’ statewide anti-hunger advocacy organization, Project Bread. As America deals with obesity more than ever, school cafeterias are supporting better nutrition for our kids and echoing public health efforts taking place across the country. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and community partners to continue supporting nutrition guidelines that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people.

By Ellen Parker, Executive Director, Project Bread

At Project Bread, it is our belief that the opposite of hungry is not simply full, but healthy. We constantly strive to ensure that every person, across Massachusetts, has consistent access to fresh, healthy foods that meet their needs. And ensuring children have access to healthy meals in school is a major part of that. Read more »

REE Shows Children in Rural America How Ag Science Rocks

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

You may be surprised by the answers you get when you ask a group of middle schoolers, “What do you like about science?”

Recently, 30 twelve and thirteen year-olds from the Coleman and TL Weston Middle schools in Greenville, Mississippi summed up their answers up with one brief sentence: “I like learning new things about the world around me.” Read more »

Solving the Fresh Produce Equation

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

Whether it’s solving a math problem or figuring out how to buy quality fresh apples, having the right tools and training will lead you to a positive solution. Managing fresh and fresh-cut produce purchases can seem like a complicated math problem for many schools, food banks and other large volume institutions. To help them figure out the right formula and address all of the variables, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) designed a webinar series to help these establishments successfully buy, receive and handle fresh and fresh-cut produce.

The webinar series is an off-shoot of an ongoing AMS produce webinar series and the popular Produce Safety University (PSU), which helps school foodservice personnel identify and manage food safety risks associated with handling fresh produce. While PSU was delivered using interactive, hands-on classes, the webinar series’ online format allows more people to expand their knowledge of all things produce. As a result, more and more large volume institutions will be able to satisfy their demand for fresh produce. Read more »