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Feed the Future: Together We Can

This week, USDA was honored to join forces with USAID and Islamic Relief USA to host the department’s 4th annual Iftar celebration. The event welcomed over 170 guests, including representatives from humanitarian organizations, faith-based groups and federal employees.  This year’s Iftar called attention to the importance of reducing food insecurity abroad with the theme “Feed the Future: Together We Can.” Iftar is an evening gathering held each year during Ramadan.  A time of spiritual cleansing in the Islamic faith, Ramadan is when Muslims fast, abstaining from food and water from sunrise until sunset. Iftar is the meal at which Muslims break their fast each night. For many Muslims, fasting is an act of empathy towards those around the world who go hungry not by choice, but instead by circumstance.

USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, speaks about Feed the Future

USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, speaks about Feed the Future

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Small Ohio Producers First to Reap Benefits of Interstate Shipment

This morning at  the Ohio Grown: Local Food Creating Local Opportunities conference at The Ohio State University, I had the pleasure of announcing that Ohio is the first state to join the interstate meat shipment program created by the 2008 Farm Bill. The program provides an opportunity for state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines, helping these small businesses access new markets.

Before, state-inspected meat facilities like these were limited to selling their products within the state. This new program ensures that they meet federal food safety standards, which will be administered by state food inspectors and agriculture officials and overseen by USDA.  Several small meat processors in Ohio plan to lead the way as the first state-inspected facilities in the country to take advantage of the program.

For example, Ben Fligner, owner of Great Lakes Smoked Meats in Lorain, is proud to be able to expand a business that produces 35 varieties of fully-cooked smoked meat products like andouille sausage, kielbasa, bratwurst and knackwurst. Read more »

A Kentucky Recipe for Farmers Market Success

For nearly 15 years, the Jeffersontown, KY, Farmers Market struggled.  Dwindling to only four vendors selling to a handful of customers, the market was barely surviving from year to year. In 2009, the City of Jeffersontown found a recipe for success by combining the town’s enthusiasm and energy with support from USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to reinvigorate and reinvent the farmers market.

FMPP is a competitive grant program administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  The program provides funds to help establish, expand, and promote farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, and other direct-to-consumer marketing opportunities.  FMPP has funded 443 diverse projects across the country since 2006. Read more »

FSIS and FDA Offer “At Risk” Food Safety Brochures

If you’ve had food poisoning, you know it’s not something you want to experience again. But for “at-risk” individuals, it can be life threatening. People with cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, or an organ transplant—as well as healthy older adults and pregnant women—who have weakened immune systems are at increased risk for foodborne illness.

The safety of the food these groups eat is just as important as the medicines that help them regain or maintain their health. To help at-risk persons avoid food poisoning, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have collaborated to publish a series of five updated food safety booklets designed specifically to educate older adults, transplant recipients, and people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or diabetes. Read more »

Making New Connections During National Farmers Market Week

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce during a July trip to visit the Baltimore farmers market in Maryland.  The mid-Atlantic region saw double-digit growth in its listings in the National Farmers Market Directory.  Maryland added 76 new market listings alone. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce during a July trip to visit the Baltimore farmers market in Maryland. The mid-Atlantic region saw double-digit growth in its listings in the National Farmers Market Directory. Maryland added 76 new market listings alone. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

We’ve known for some time that local food is a vibrant and growing sector in agriculture. Consumers are seeking out food produced in their region, and this local food – whether it’s purchased at a farmers market, in a grocery store, at a restaurant or elsewhere – is now a multi-billion dollar industry. This week, we received further evidence of the strength of consumer demand for local foods. The National Farmers Market Directory, compiled by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has just been updated and shows a nearly 10 percent increase in listings over last year. Read more »

Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley Celebrates the Grand Opening of a new Native Primary Care Center

For most Americans, advanced health care facilities that can treat almost any kind of ailment are just a short drive away.  But picture you or a loved one in your rural community enduring a life-threatening illness or injury, and having to travel extended distances for medical attention.  Compounding the issue – treacherous travel conditions during the winter months when remote roads are hazardous and sometimes closed due to weather.

Now completed a new Native health center in Wasilla means Alaska Natives living along the Parks and Glenn Highways will no longer have to make long 100 mile, round-trip drives to Anchorage to receive routine medical care.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through USDA Rural Development, provided $40 million in Direct Community Facilities Loan funding and $10 million in a Guaranteed Loan through Wells Fargo Bank.  Besides providing construction jobs, the facility will employ 200 staff including healthcare professionals.  Available services provided include primary medical care, dental, behavioral health, optometry, health education, wellness and traditional medicine. Read more »