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Whitefish Public Schools Take Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in Stride

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

Whitefish Public Schools Food Service Director Jay Stagg started transitioning to more scratch cooking and using fewer processed foods when he was hired 5 years ago. So, when the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) rules were implemented, it might have seemed as though they were just catching up with the improvements he had initiated.

“There weren’t too many changes needed from what I was already doing,” he said.

Before the final regulation’s effective date, Stagg had already changed over to whole-grain-rich products and reduced sodium levels. Read more »

Trading Spaces: Urbanized Detroit to Forested Manistique, Michigan

A group of young people from Detroit walk a somewhat unfamiliar path along the shoreline of Clear Lake on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. The U.S. Forest Service teams with partners to help open the world of natural resources to children who live in cities. (U.S. Forest Service)

A group of young people from Detroit walk a somewhat unfamiliar path along the shoreline of Clear Lake on the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan. The U.S. Forest Service teams with partners to help open the world of natural resources to children who live in cities. (U.S. Forest Service)

Detroit youth joined the U.S. Forest Service and traded their city lights and busy streets for an action-packed three days on the Hiawatha National Forest filled with views of trees, wildlife and dirt roads.

For most, this was their first time experiencing life outside the metropolitan area and entering the forest near Manistique, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The youth were filled with excitement and nerves as they prepared for their day that would be spent learning about different aspects of the Forest Service and information about the forest itself. Read more »

USDA Seeks Public Feedback on Policies with School Meals Charges

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren.  I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.

Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight.  Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »

Women are the Past, Present and Future of American Agriculture

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors and to feed the world.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly one million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.  These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture.  We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policy makers and standard bearers.  Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture.  Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands.  As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.

When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.

Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.

Wyoming Landowners Restore Riparian Areas in Big Horn Basin

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

It took Dee Hillberry six years before he could get a handle on encroaching and hardy invasive vegetation. Working on two separate properties, he removed tamarisk trees, or salt cedars, from 200 acres along Cottonwood Creek and Russian olive trees from 100 acres along the Big Horn River.

Despite Hillberry’s hard work in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, his efforts in restoring riparian areas were part of a larger endeavor that involved work done in phases over several years, over hundreds of miles, and with numerous partners in the Big Horn River basin. The basin is about 100 miles wide, and so far, more than 13,000 acres of invasive trees have been removed from the riparian area. Read more »

Field Day Supports Organic Dairy Producers

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Field Days at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. The field days combine many activities for attending farmers, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, speak with experts in the organic field, catch up with old friends and make some new friends too.

As Deputy Administrator for USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, I participated in a panel discussion on the future of organic certification with Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and Henry Perkins, President of the Maine Organic Milk Producers.  I also had the opportunity to present information about the National Organic Program, including USDA’s programs that support organic agriculture, sound and sensible certification, the National Organic Standards Board and the revised sunset process. Read more »