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Local Advocacy Group Steps up to Protect Quality of Lake Water on the Bankhead National Forest in Alabama

Volunteer Mimi Barkley of Houston, Ala., removes litter from the banks of Smith Lake during the Alabama Power Company’s Renew Our Rivers campaign to clean-up Alabama Waterways in June 2008. Through the hard work of volunteers, approximately 180 tons of litter has been removed from more than 166 river miles within the Winston County area (Photo courtesy of LaVerne Matheson).

Volunteer Mimi Barkley of Houston, Ala., removes litter from the banks of Smith Lake during the Alabama Power Company’s Renew Our Rivers campaign to clean-up Alabama Waterways in June 2008. Through the hard work of volunteers, approximately 180 tons of litter has been removed from more than 166 river miles within the Winston County area (Photo courtesy of LaVerne Matheson).

The beauty of a partnership involves dedicated partners on both sides. The volunteers with the Winston County Smith Lake Advocacy Group donate their time each year to protect shorelines on the Bankhead National Forest, an effort greatly appreciated by the forest’s staff. Read more »

French Students Who Designed U.S. Embassy People’s Garden Visit USDA Headquarters

French students from Ecole Du Breuil, School of Horticulture and Landscaping Techniques, Paris, France. The students visited the United States Department of Agriculture People’s Garden in Washington, D.C., on September 4, 2012.

French students from Ecole Du Breuil, School of Horticulture and Landscaping Techniques, Paris, France. The students visited the United States Department of Agriculture People’s Garden in Washington, D.C., on September 4, 2012. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

After a morning visit to the White House Kitchen garden, 27 students from Ecole Du Breuil, the leading school of Horticulture and Landscaping Techniques of the City of Paris, France, spent the afternoon visiting the USDA People’s Garden. All of these students are interested in landscape design and are receiving special training so they can pursue this important work as a career. These young people, like many others from around the world, are taking an interest in agriculture after being involved in a People’s Garden project in their community. Read more »

A Colorado Child Care Center Expands with Support from USDA Rural Development

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Business and Cooperative Programs Administrator Judith Canales (black suit) assists at the groundbreaking of the Riverhouse Children’s Center in Durango, CO on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. USDA RD provided $1.6 million in Community Facility loan funding for the project.  USDA photo by Amy Mund.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development (RD) Business and Cooperative Programs Administrator Judith Canales (black suit) assists at the groundbreaking of the Riverhouse Children’s Center in Durango, CO on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. USDA RD provided $1.6 million in Community Facility loan funding for the project. USDA photo by Amy Mund.

Riverhouse Children’s Center in Durango, Colorado strives to provide high quality care and early education services to young children from ages six weeks through five years old.  In 2012, the center serves approximately 80 children in its five classrooms.  Realizing their current location needed updating and to be expanded, the entity sought out funding for the construction of a new two-story, 6,400-square foot building.  The entity was awarded a $1.6 million Community Facilities Loan from USDA Rural Development earlier this year. Read more »

Food Safety Science

Colorized SEM (scanning electron micrograph) of the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enteritidis. Photo by Jean Guard, ARS.

Colorized SEM (scanning electron micrograph) of the foodborne pathogen Salmonella enteritidis. Photo by Jean Guard, ARS.

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 USDA’s rich science and research profile.

When it comes to microorganisms that contaminate our foods, you may think it’s a veritable jungle out there—but in fact, in the United States, most of the illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths caused by foodborne pathogens come down to 14 bad players. Read more »

Many Hands Tend the Food Safety Net

Undersecretary Kevin Concannon meets with Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of nuns based in New Orleans.

Undersecretary Kevin Concannon meets with Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of nuns based in New Orleans.

When a newspaper reporter asked me recently, “What can I tell our readers about the USDA programs,” I told her: “Most of what USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service does is through others.”

As I travel throughout the country, I see how different organizations come together to carry out our mission of putting food on the table for those in need. In concert with FNS’ 15 nutrition assistance programs, hundreds of organizations are working hard every day to create the safety net against hunger that protects Americans. Without fanfare and with little public notice, coalitions of non-profits, religious organizations and groups of volunteers are often the first line of defense against hunger. Read more »

Meet Olga Morales: A “Good Egg” Inspector Now Cracking Food Safety Cases

Olga Morales admits she is kind of a workaholic.

Two decades ago, Olga Morales worked inside an egg products plant in Elizabeth, N.J., inspecting food to make sure it was safe for the public to purchase and to eat. Today, after rising through the ranks at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, she works at a desk job in Washington, D.C., where she investigates food safety violations by meat, poultry and egg products companies.

Despite the changes in her work environment between then and now, Olga feels the same excitement when she goes to work every morning as she did 20 years ago. “I am proud of my work, and I want everyone to know that,” she said.

Born and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Olga knew when she was 5 years old that she wanted a career where she could help people and “make a difference” in their lives. It was in high school that her interest in science grew and she had the opportunity to do well in her favorite subjects—anything related to science. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology from the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico, she began her federal career with the U.S. Department of Defense working as a health technician and held other health-related jobs in the private sector. Read more »