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International Youth Day: NIFA Helps Provide Sustainable Youth Leadership

Kirk Astroth, center, in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development Program, center, traveled to Nepal in 2014 to teach a train-the-trainer program that led to Nepal’s first 4-H national organization. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Astroth)

The United Nations’ celebrates International Youth every August and this year’s theme is Youth Leading Sustainability. The international recognition focuses on the leading role of young people in pursuing poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable production and consumption. There are roughly 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest generation of youth in human history. They face never-before-seen shifts in populations, economies, technology, health and the environment. USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture help today’s youth navigate these shifts and develop into healthy adults.

Recognizing the voice of youth is important and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) plays a key role in providing positive youth development through the internationally recognized 4-H program, which empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. Read more »

Getting Ready for Back to School? It’s MyPlate Quiz Time!

Test Your Food Group IQ graphic

Test your food group knowledge with new quizzes available at ChooseMyPlate.gov/quiz.

Think you know a lot about the five food groups? The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – the group that created MyPlate – just released a set of quizzes on the five food groups. These quizzes, designed to challenge, teach, and even entertain, are intended for anyone who wants to learn about the food groups or wants a refresher – adults and kids alike.

USDA’s food groups have been around for about 75 years. Though the current names of the food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – have changed slightly over time, the food groups were key components of MyPyramid (2005), the Food Guide Pyramid (1992), Food Wheel (1984), Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide (1979), Basic Four (1956), and Basic Seven (1940). For more information on the previous food guides, visit A Brief History of USDA Food Guides. Food groups make it easier to learn about nutrition and plan healthy meals. Each food group provides specific nutrients that our bodies need, so instead of trying to track dozens of nutrients, you can just focus on getting the five groups. Read more »

It’s Not Too Late to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

Flowers from Hamburg NY Chamber of Commerce

Communities like Hamburg, New York, pictured above, joined USDA in celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Their chamber of commerce shared #marketfav after #marketfav on Twitter all week. Photo courtesy @HamburgChamber on Twitter.

National Farmers Market Week is a good example of why I say it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. More than ever, all segments of the food industry are coming together to provide consumers with foods fresh from the farm, and farmers markets lead the way.

As I visited markets in Alexandria, La., and Greenwood, S.C.—and right here in Washington, D.C.—I saw firsthand the positive impact of farmers markets on the businesses and communities around them.  And, through our 2015 Market Managers Survey results, we know that across the nation farmers markets are helping build businesses and bring communities together. Read more »

Using Data for Social Good

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy CIO, Policy and Planning at the United State of Women Summit

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy CIO, Policy and Planning, United State of Women Summit, June 2016

We are entering a new era of information openness and transparency.  Open data has the potential to spur economic innovation and social transformation.   Focusing just on economic impacts, in 2013, for example, the consulting firm McKinsey estimated the possible global value of open data to be over $3 trillion per year.  A study commissioned by Omidyar Network has likewise calculated that open data could result in an extra $13 trillion over five years in the output of G20 nations.

These impacts illustrate why it is important that we encourage people of every age to invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  For example, the White House initiative on Equal Futures Partnership, aims to open more doors to high-quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in the STEM disciplines, fields in which they are currently underrepresented. To support this effort, Federal science and technology agencies, private corporations, and academic institutions are taking steps to collect better data on women and girls in STEM fields, expand STEM mentoring opportunities, encourage research-driven teaching practices, and increase access to online STEM-skill training. Read more »

Farmers Markets Bring Farm-Fresh Foods & Fun to Summer Meals

People near local cherry tomatoes

Summer meal and farmers market offerings include local cherry tomatoes.

This National Farmers Market Week, we celebrate a growing national trend that exemplifies the power of partnership in achieving common goals. Across the country, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs are joining forces with their local farmers markets, realizing a multitude of shared benefits.  These partnerships increase access to the local seasonal bounty the summer months have to offer and help keep kids and their families nourished and active while school is out. Check out how three communities are taking full advantage of all that farmers markets during the summer months! Read more »

Growing a Community – One Family at a Time in Huron, S.D.

Nyo Maung with his child

Nyo Maung with one of his six children enjoying some free time in the front yard of their new home.

There are stark differences between Huron, South Dakota, and the Thailand Refugee Camp where the Maung Family started their journey. There are cultural differences, language barriers, and vast contrasts between the way people live and work in these two pinpoints on opposite sides of the globe. The Maung family journeyed from Thailand and have been welcomed into the community of Huron, South Dakota. They are enjoying the American culture and are adjusting well to life in their new community.

It takes strong community partners working together to create thriving communities and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Even though the Maung family has limited knowledge of the English language, that barrier did not prevent them from pursuing the American dream of homeownership through USDA. They worked with a language interpreter to engage several partners that worked together to assist with the application process of becoming new homeowners. Read more »