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New School Year Ushers in Healthier School Days for Kids

As a new school year begins, I’m proud to say that the Obama Administration is taking historic steps to make the school day healthier for kids in schools across the country. I’m excited about the changes showing up in cafeterias this school year – more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low-fat and fat-free milk choices; and fewer salty and fatty foods.

In addition to those changes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with parents, teachers and school cafeteria managers to ensure our kids get the right amount of food. Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and the meals are “right-sized” so that kids get the appropriate amount of calories and the correct portions of different foods.  To further improve menu changes, we’re increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of sodium, saturated fat and trans fats available in those meals. Read more »

Why USDA Employees Donate

Ladysmith Service Center employees with a Feds Feed Families donation.   Left to right Rick Cote (FSA PT) – Sandy Voldberg(FSA-PT) – Mike  Koehler(NRCS-DC) – Kathy Brihn(FSA-CED) Ladysmith Service Center employees with a Feds Feed Families donation.   Left to right Rick Cote (FSA PT) – Sandy Voldberg(FSA-PT) – Mike  Koehler(NRCS-DC) – Kathy Brihn(FSA-CED)

Ladysmith Service Center employees with a Feds Feed Families donation. Left to right Rick Cote (FSA PT) – Sandy Voldberg(FSA-PT) – Mike Koehler(NRCS-DC) – Kathy Brihn(FSA-CED)

At over 1,600 field offices across the country, USDA employees are playing their part to help reach our 2012 Feds Feed Families goal of 1.8 million pounds of food. Feds Feeds Families seeks to help local food banks and pantries provide for their communities over the summer months—a time of year characterized by increased need and decreased giving. We are in the final month of this year’s drive and it is more important than ever to stay motivated to both reach our goal and help our neighbors in need. Read more »

What it Takes to Become a Wildland Firefighter

Wildland firefighter trainees windup a hire hose.

Wildland firefighter trainees windup a fire hose.

With fires raging across the Western states dramatic images of wildland firefighters attempting to contain the flames are a regular visual in newspapers and on TV and computer devices across the country. These striking visuals rouse the fighter in some of us and we might ask: Can I fight a wildfire?

The answer is you can—if you meet certain criteria. Both federal and state agencies have varying requirements to award what is referred to as a Wildfire Qualification Card. Like a driver’s license, this card says you’re certified to fight wildland fires. So how do you get one? Aside from hours of online testing, you’ll have to enroll in a week long fire training-type boot camp where you’ll take more tests and be given a large spiral bound book called the Fireland Handbook. Read more »

USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman Promotes Public/Private Partnerships, Meets with Industry Leaders

USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left) meets with FPL researcher John Hunt (front right) as representatives from FPL partner Noble Environmental Technologies look on (in background,  Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker).

USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left) meets with FPL researcher John Hunt (front right) as representatives from FPL partner Noble Environmental Technologies look on (in background, Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker).

A recent visit to the US Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory by USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman was an eventful one. Sherman took the opportunity to visit with industry leaders who have collaborated with federal scientists to bring innovative new products to the market. Sherman was at the laboratory on July 25 for a grand opening of the new Nanocellulose Pilot Plant along with scores of industry leaders, scientists and academic researchers. Read more »

USDA Strives to Improve Water Quality and Public Health in Low Income Communities in the Southwest

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Judith Canales traveled to Texas recently to announce a much needed change to the USDA Rural Development water and wastewater funding process. Canales met with community members and local leaders in the City of Peñitas water treatment plant during her visit, and also spoke before members of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders 2012 Summit, held in McAllen.

The change to the funding process for water and wastewater treatment facilities will assign priority points for projects in colonias. The funding change will help increase investments needed to strengthen these communities and improve the quality of life for their residents, ultimately helping colonias address significant health risks.

The announcement was a terrific follow up to the new “Border Community Capital Initiative” (Border Initiative) MOU between U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) in June 2012. Read more »

USDA Committed to Supporting Improvement of Housing Quality in Indian Country

The  newly constructed Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Authority administration building, built with USDA support.

The newly constructed Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Authority administration building, built with USDA support.

USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development staff celebrated the building dedication of the first Housing Authority in the nation recently.  Started over 50 years ago, the Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Authority located on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, in South Dakota, hosted officials in honor of the opening of their newly constructed administration building.  Funded through a USDA Rural Development’s Recovery Act Community Facility Direct loan of $3.6 Million, the building stands for the coordinated effort of many agencies. Read more »