Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

Stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale

A students’ favorite: stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale.

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds. Read more »

Living up to our Creed: Commemorating 50 Years of the Voting Rights Act

Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Selma Mayor George Evans along with USDA State Directors and local officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala

Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Selma Mayor George Evans along with USDA State Directors and local officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

Over the course of the Administration, we’ve observed many significant anniversaries in the fight for equality across this great nation. We commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic I Have a Dream speech. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and our continued commitment to addressing poverty and income inequality across America, as well as fifty years since the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act. This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Earlier this week, I spent some time with Congresswoman Terri Sewell in Alabama. I had the opportunity to walk across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where, 50 years ago, the men and women of the civil rights movement etched out their place in history as they faced intense hostility and hatred with love and nonviolence. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

Community Eligibility: A Win-Win for Schools and Families in the Fight against Childhood Hunger

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch.

Every day, millions of students across the U.S. walk into school with stomachs growling because they haven’t had enough to eat either that morning or the night before and eagerly anticipate getting a school breakfast.  Hours later, when the lunch bell rings, the same students jet to the front of the line to make sure they get enough food to tide them over until their next meal. For many students, school meals are not a luxury or a backup in case they forget to pack a meal; they are a lifeline. 

At a time when 8.6 million U.S. children lack consistent access to food at home, the availability of nutritious meals at school is more important than ever. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools to not only feed more kids, but can help with the bottom line. Read more »

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night, County Fair Time poster

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night. Join us on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

August is prime time for city, county and state agricultural fairs! These fun summertime events bring communities together.  Farmers markets also are an increasingly popular community gathering spot.

So, what would happen if the fair theme was combined with a farmers market?  You would get County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has managed the weekly daytime USDA Farmers Market, at 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W., in Washington, D.C. for 20 years.  The daytime market is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. Read more »

High Tunnels Helps Community Supported Agriculture Farm

Beth Rinkenberger holding a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel

Beth Rinkenberger holds a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel, one of the many vegetables the CSA box contains. Photo: Jody Christiansen.

Somewhat hidden in Livingston County, Illinois is a five-acre farm that is reminiscent of farms years ago. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the farm is able to maintain a diversified operation with agritourism features and run a CSA ­– or Community Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms, like Beth and Doug Rinkenberger’s Garden Gate Farms, and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »