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Back to School, Back to Healthier School Meals

Children eating school meals

Nutritious school meals keep students healthy and ready to learn.

It’s hard to believe the start of the school year is right around the corner. It feels like just yesterday the final bell rang, and students exchanged their pens and pencils for swim trunks and sunglasses. But it’s time for students, teachers and other school staff to get ready for the year ahead, and that includes school nutrition professionals who will soon be tasked with serving healthy school meals to over 30 million students nationwide.

This past year, America’s school nutrition professionals did some phenomenal work, and I look forward to picking up right where we left off. Today, more than 96 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated meal standards, serving healthy meals approved by nutritionists and students alike. A recent study found that kids are now eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit at school — not to mention more whole grains, low-fat dairy, and  lean protein, than they were before the new meal standards.  I’m certain that through continued collaboration with our partners and food professionals, this school year will bring even more progress toward a healthier, hunger-free generation. Read more »

Alaska’s Newest Live Stream Salmon Cam Debuts

Visitors at the Crooked Creek Information Center in Valdez, Alaska looking at a bear and salmon

Visitors at the Crooked Creek Information Center in Valdez, Alaska can see the spawning salmon from the viewing platform and the bears that feed on them. (USFS Photo by Jeannie Kirkland)

The City of Valdez, Alaska, offers a unique destination for visitors because of the proximity to the Crooked Creek Information Center, the most visited information center on the Chugach National Forest. Situated alongside the creek, a fish viewing platform beckons guests to take in the salmon returning to spawn each summer.

So what if you can’t make it to Alaska this summer? You can still experience the wonder through the Crooked Creek underwater fish cam.

An underwater camera has offered images of the swimming fish at Crooked Creek for several years; however, it was only linked to a monitor on the fish viewing platform. Visitors could get the bird’s-eye view of the creek from the platform, and then watch the fish underwater on the monitor. This summer, Andrew Morin, a fisheries biologist in Cordova, joined other Chugach employees to make the Crooked Creek fish cam available to the world via the Forest Service YouTube live streaming video. Read more »

Evolution of Agency Revealed in New Website

Screenshot of the new AMS homepage

A screenshot of the new AMS homepage.

Over the last ten years, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has transformed as an agency.  Of course, the core mission is still there—facilitating the domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products—but how we accomplish that mission is an evolutionary process. 

Our agency serves many different stakeholders.  From consumers to industry councils, state inspectors to non-profits, we offer a broad range of services, information, grants, and regulatory oversight that are critical to the agricultural economy and the quality of our nation’s food supply. Read more »

Connecticut’s Efforts to Protect a True New England Native is No Illusion!

Cottontail rabbits playing at the Cottontail Farm

Playtime at the Cottontail Farm. Photo courtesy of owner Tom McAvoy

Pull a rabbit out of a hat. If only it were that simple!

For thousands of years, New England has been home to its own unique rabbit – the New England cottontail. The at-risk bunny once lived in a territory that extended from southeastern New York and northward into Vermont and southern Maine. Over the past decades, the cottontail’s territory has gotten significantly smaller, losing about 86 percent of its range since the 1960s. Read more »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »

Inaugural US Forest Service International Seminar on Forest Landscape Restoration Held in Oregon

Participants of the International Seminar on Forest Landscape Restoration on a field trip

Participants of the International Seminar on Forest Landscape Restoration on a field trip. Photo credit: US Forest Service

This blog post was co-authored with Aaron Reuben (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and Kathleen Buckingham (World Resources Institute).

Four billion acres of degraded and deforested land world-wide—an area the size of South America—could benefit from restoration. Restoration addresses our most pressing global challenges—from protecting biodiversity to providing food, energy and water, to offering security and economic opportunity for millions of people.

In the United States, a multitude of partners from all sectors, from the local to national level, initiated restoration on millions of acres of degraded land, but the United States cannot do it alone. Degradation is a global issue that requires a global response. This summer, landscape restoration professionals from 16 countries, representing government ministries, non-governmental organizations and private companies, gathered in Oregon to learn from the United States’ experience. Read more »