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USDA Foods’ Local Roots: DoD Fresh Connects the Farm to School

Royal Food Service sign

Royal Food Service in Atlanta brings the farm to 1,900 schools through the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

What do the military’s logistical network, peaches and peppers, and school children have in common? The first delivers the second to the third through a unique partnership between the Department of Defense (DoD) and USDA.

October is National Farm to School Month and the perfect time to celebrate the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which connects schools with fresh and often local produce using their USDA Foods entitlement dollars. Schools order local foods from a variety of sources, and according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 29 percent of districts participating in farm to school are receiving local foods through DoD Fresh. Read more »

Celebrating 80 Years of Partnership

Secretary Vilsack and RUS Administrator McBride announcing an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program award

Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack and RUS Administrator McBride announced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program award to Pedernales Electric Co-op of Johnson City, TX. Left to right: RUS Administrator Brandon McBride, Secretary Vilsack, John Hewa (CEO, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), Emily Pataki (Board President, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), and Cindy Thyfault (Founder & CEO, Westar Trade Resources)

This is a special year for rural electric cooperative utilities.  Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The REA brought electricity to rural America, ultimately making the United States the source of the world’s food, fuel and fiber—the breadbasket for the world. Read more »

Already Planning to Feed More Kids than Ever During Summer 2017

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serving breakfast to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serves breakfast to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Petersburg, VA on Jun. 7, 2016. Secretary Vilsack was at the school for the kick off of the U.S Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Program.

Now that summer has come and gone, I’m happy to announce that this season the USDA Rural Housing Service was able to partner with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to feed more kids than ever before. Three hundred and five Rural Housing Service Multi-Family Housing properties participated in FNS’ Summer Meal Programs, which provide low-income children with free, healthy meals during the summer when school is out. This is 121 more affordable housing communities we were able to serve than the year before, and almost triple the number from 2014.

This is a huge success, and I’m so proud of my team across the country for feeding more kids at our properties than ever before! However, we cannot become complacent because we have the potential to make an even bigger difference in the lives of rural kids. There are more opportunities to partner with borrowers in our Multi-Family Housing and Community Facilities Programs, and I’ve set a lofty goal for summer 2017. Read more »

Pennsylvania Landowners Helping Indiana Bat through ‘Spooky’ Declines

NRCS Chief Jason Weller with Tom Belinda and Rob Clauto

NRCS Chief Jason Weller (left) visited with NRCS District Conservationist Rob Clauto (center) and Blair County landowner Tom Belinda (right) to see some of the practices at work on the land.

When most people think of bats, images of dark caves, vampires and Halloween come to mind. But actually, bats get a bad rap, and we often don’t know how important they are for controlling insects, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and improving biodiversity.

Many of our nation’s bats are facing population declines to near-extinction levels, primarily because of disease and loss of habitat. One of those species is the Indiana bat, an endangered species that has experienced rapid declines since the 1960s. Read more »

Meet Carol & Brad: The Last Family in the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series

Brad and Carol

The MyPlate, MyWins video series shows how real families make healthy eating work for them. Meet Brad, a dairy farmer, his wife Carol, and their four children in our newest and final family video.

This year, our MyPlate, MyWins video series has introduced you to families sharing their solutions for incorporating healthy eating into their unique lifestyles. In the final family video, Carol and Brad share how they plan meals around foods they either produce themselves in their family garden or are on sale at the grocery store. For them, making sure their four children eat right and take care of their bodies is essential! Read more »

REAPing America’s Clean Energy Future

Administrator Sam Rikkers discussing the Central City Solar Garden Project

Administrator Sam Rikkers (left) discusses the Central City Solar Garden Project with (L-R) City Administrator Chris Anderson, Cliff Mesner of Mesner Development Company (with his back to the camera), and Bill Sheppard and Jeff Carpenter of USDA Rural Development’s Nebraska offices.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska. Read more »