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Harvest Time: Celebrating Native American Heritage and Traditional Foods in FDPIR

In this demonstration at the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit in September 2016, wild rice is hand parched over a wood fire, a key step in the traditional processing of wild rice.

In this demonstration at the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit in September 2016, wild rice is hand parched over a wood fire, a key step in the traditional processing of wild rice.

Autumn is a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, as we enjoy the harvest of nature’s bounty during gatherings with family and friends. In Indian Country, culture and tradition are sustained through shared meals with family and the community. Traditional foods are a powerful way for each new generation to connect with and honor its history and its ancestors, and participants in USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) have access to more traditional foods than ever this year. November, Native American Heritage Month, is an especially fitting time to celebrate the addition to FDPIR of bison, blue cornmeal, wild rice, and wild salmon – foods that not only nourish a body but sustain a culture.

In collaboration with the FDPIR community, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service have been working to identify culturally relevant foods to procure and offer through FDPIR, a program that provides healthy food and nutrition education to an average of 92,500 income-eligible individuals living on or near reservations across the United States each month. The food package offers more than 100 domestically sourced, nutritious foods, including a variety of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables. In both fiscal year 2015 and 2016, USDA received an additional allocation of $5 million dedicated to traditional and locally-grown foods. This fund, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and subject to the availability of appropriations, has allowed the exploration of new culinary opportunities for FDPIR. Read more »

Conservation as a Peace Offering to Vietnam War Veteran

Conservation is giving Vietnam War veteran Gilbert Harrison a peace offering of healing, helping to balance the stresses of war. For Harrison, conserving the natural resources on his farm is an important outdoor activity. And who better to care for the land than the veterans who fought to protect it?

Harrison has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2012, when he received funding and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help him install an improved irrigation system to help develop alfalfa production on his land. Read more »

Promoting Integrity through Improved Technology

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon with student

USDA’s new Child Nutrition Technology Innovation Grants apply to school meal programs, summer meal programs and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you already know that USDA is committed to continuously improving the integrity of their programs.  We strive to operate our programs effectively and efficiently.  We aim to provide program participants with the best service possible, while ensuring taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck.

We go about this in a number of different ways.  In previous posts, we’ve shared how we’re streamlining the USDA organic certification process; highlighted our prize competition, which crowdsourced design ideas to minimize error in school meals applications; and featured ways we’re working to educate farmers on official grain standards, sampling and grading rules. Read more »

Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch

The U.S. flag

Each day, nearly 1,300 veterans and their family members return to civilian life. USDA is helping many veterans transition from the military to agriculture.

In honor of Veterans Day, Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam provided Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with an overview of USDA’s support for veterans. Baccam, a proud army veteran, also serves as the Department’s Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison. Read more »

A Hero in Farmville

Henry Smith holding a gift he received when he visited Belgium

Henry Smith, who served in the 75th Infantry Division in World War II, holds a gift he received when he visited Belgium earlier this year. The framed item includes a photo of Smith and thank-you notes from people who today live in towns that he helped liberate in 1945. He is wearing his uniform coat from that time.

When I met Henry Smith in March, he told me about how two months earlier he stepped off of a plane and onto Belgian soil for the first time in more than 70 years. He said the setting was immediately familiar to him.

“It’s going to snow,” he said to his family as the chill in the air and low-hanging clouds echoed conditions he remembers vividly from January 15 and 16, 1945. Read more »

We All Agree – Veterans Are Part of Our National Fabric

An American flag flying next to a new wind turbine

This year GIPSA hired 12 veterans in permanent employment positions, representing 18 percent of the agency’s permanent new hires.

With the political rhetoric finally over, there’s one inspiring message that everyone can agree with—our veterans already make America great every day. Every veteran who joined the military following the end of the draft in 1973 volunteered to serve our country. And they want to continue serving even after they packed away their uniforms.

During remarks delivered at Arlington Cemetery last year, the President noted that bringing veterans into the workforce shouldn’t necessarily reflect some moral obligation, charity or patriotism. Veterans, including those with disabilities, are simply good for business.  Our veterans possess training, skills, leadership, and motivation ideally suited for public service. Following their commitment of service during one of the longest struggles in history, our veterans consistently reflect passion, resilience, and tenacity to get the job done.  Their talents are seasoned by deployments, honed in many cases under the stress of combat, and forever shaped by an ethos dedicated to mission success. Read more »