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Fighting to Preserve and Conserve Virginia’s Historic Battlefields

Mike Liskey, right, refers to a site map while discussing ongoing conservation projects with Chase Milner, with the foundation, and Amy Roscher, with the Virginia Farming television program. NRCS photo.

Mike Liskey, right, refers to a site map while discussing ongoing conservation projects with Chase Milner, with the foundation, and Amy Roscher, with the Virginia Farming television program. NRCS photo.

Three out of every five Civil War battles were fought in Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that some of the work of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking place on hallowed ground. In Winchester, Va., the agency is partnering with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to protect historic and natural resources on part of the Third Winchester Battlefield.

The foundation has discovered that keeping these sites in agricultural use is an economical way to maintain them. They have worked with NRCS since 2009 to preserve and conserve Huntsberry Farm, a 209-acre farm where cattle still graze today.

NRCS District Conservationist Mike Liskey helped Chase Milner, the foundation’s manager of stewardship, with conservation planning to address their concerns about water quality and invasive species while protecting vital cultural resources. Read more »

Homeownership and Independence Day Go Together Like Baseball and Apple Pie

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

Closing out National Homeownership Month on June 30, 2014, RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez inside the home with new homeowners, Jay Pauley and Johanna Mansfield, along with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, representing Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District, at the Lower Columbia Community Action Program (LCCAP) Self-Help Housing Project in Castle Rock, Wash. Photo by Phil Eggman.

This year, Independence Day will be even more meaningful for tens of thousands of families across the nation. With financing assistance from USDA, they will be able to gather their loved ones in their own homes and back yards to celebrate the holiday as homeowners.

As the Administrator for USDA’s housing programs, I spent the past weeks celebrating National Homeownership Month with rural families who are achieving the American Dream with USDA assistance. On the final day of the month-long celebration, I joined families who are now constructing their homes through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help program, as well as another group of families moving into their new homes just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July. Read more »

USDA Conservation Funding Helps Provide Protection for Great Lakes

A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.

A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.

I have the Great Lakes in my blood. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Huron, my sisters and I spent countless summer days playing in the water and running along the beaches of soft singing sand.

The Au Sable River, a clear blue ribbon trout stream, empties into Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich., my hometown. We canoed the river frequently, noticing eel-like lampreys undulate menacingly upstream in the water beneath our paddles.

We carefully maneuvered past sunken logs, remnants of the logging era, to avoid tipping and spilling into the water, imagining that this hideous creature with its huge circular, tooth-lined mouth would affix itself painfully, firmly and fatally onto our flesh! Read more »

A Week to Remember Fallen Wildland Firefighters

The Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho, includes three eight-foot bronze firefighters standing in silent testimony to hard-working men and women on the fireline. A waterfall built by a team of volunteers showcases native rock gathered from a local quarry by the Boise Smokejumpers. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho, includes three eight-foot bronze firefighters standing in silent testimony to hard-working men and women on the fireline. A waterfall built by a team of volunteers showcases native rock gathered from a local quarry by the Boise Smokejumpers. (U.S. Forest Service)

This week the nation stops to remember historic losses in the wildland firefighter community as we pay homage to the 14 lives lost in the 1994 South Canyon Fire in Colorado, the 19 lives lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona last year and the others who have lost their lives serving the public.

From June 30 to July 6, 2014, the interagency wildland fire management community is honoring all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty by participating in a Week to Remember, Reflect, and Learn. Read more »

Education Support Professionals – Partners in School Nutrition

The National Education Association believes that every student deserves a great public school. A high-quality school nutrition program is not an add-on or ancillary service, but is an integral part of that great school.

The National Education Association believes that every student deserves a great public school. A high-quality school nutrition program is not an add-on or ancillary service, but is an integral part of that great school.

The USDA school meals programs serve well over 30 million students per day, nationwide.  We rely on our partners in the education realm to help us ensure that these programs—not only programs of great magnitude, but also of great public health importance—are implemented appropriately so that children are healthy and ready to learn.  This week’s guest blog from the National Education Association is a testament to their members’ commitment to student health, and the important role that school nutrition plays.

By Roxanne Dove, Director, National Education Association, Education Support Professionals Quality

The nearly half-million Education Support Professionals (ESPs) who are members of the National Education Association play vital roles in helping to create great public schools for our students. ESPs work as bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, food service staff, and in many other jobs as part of a unified education workforce that helps ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished, and well-educated.

As readers of this blog may know, our country’s youth are facing twin crises of obesity and food insecurity — limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods. Nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese (White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity: Report to the President, 2010) while 16 million face food insecurity (USDA Economic Research Service, 2013).  In a sad irony, food insecurity leads to both hunger and obesity. Because they lack access to or can’t afford healthier food, food insecure families may be forced to choose inexpensive, calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Read more »

Partnering with Retailers and Food Manufacturers to Make Healthy Choices Easier

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Achieving a good diet requires access to nutritious food, but it also requires good choices from among the many thousands of products available at grocery stores and other food retailers – a real challenge for consumers. How can we shape a store environment that makes healthy choices easier?

Researchers working with the Food and Nutrition Service recently conducted a thought experiment to encourage healthy purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The researchers asked a number of leading experts to imagine a labeling system in place that clearly identifies the healthiest options in the stores, and develop strategies to promote them, especially for shoppers with limited resources. The strategies had to be feasible, sustainable, cost-effective, and appealing to all stakeholders: food manufacturers, food retailers, and consumers.  The study team first identified key characteristics of labeling systems — including the need to inform consumers without requiring complex interpretation, and to align with retailers’ and manufacturers’ competitive strategies and business practices. Read more »