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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 »

Two Maine Towns Unite to Leverage USDA Support into a Money-Saving Clean Water Project

The far northern Maine towns of St. Agatha and Frenchville recognize the value of partnership. So when the aging St. Agatha wastewater treatment plant began to have issues, the towns began to work on a solution. That solution was a mutually beneficial partnership with Frenchville, located only six miles away.

The towns agreed to combine their wastewater treatment system into a single, state-of-the-art facility located in Frenchville. This decision helped both towns to cut costs, while helping to preserve the Saint John River and Long Lake, which is a valuable Salmon hatchery in the area.

The total project cost was $3.2 million, with USDA Rural Development providing $1.1 million to assist with the conversion of the treatment plant to a pumping facility. Other funding partners include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. Read more »

Creatively Shaping the Future of Federal Nutrition Research

Are you interested in helping shape the future of USDA human nutrition research? What human nutrition-related issues are you interested in? Childhood obesity? The nutrient content of foods? Health promotion and disease prevention? Now’s your chance to let your voice be heard. Be an active participant by visiting our “Idea Space” and sharing your thoughts with us. Your input will help guide us in setting our human nutrition research priorities for the future. Our research helps solves problems that affect Americans’ lives every day. Help us decide which problems should be our priorities.

As USDA’s chief scientific research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is leading America towards a better future through agricultural research and information. Now ARS wants your input in planning its human nutrition research program for the next five years. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/31/12

Isaac's Impacts: Model Forecasted Rainfall, August 31, 2012

Isaac's Impacts: Model Forecasted Rainfall, August 31, 2012. Click to enlarge image.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

Hurricane Isaac has grabbed most of the weather headlines in recent days, but drought remains deeply entrenched across nearly two-thirds of the continental United States.  According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, dated August 28, drought covered 62.9% of the Lower 48 states, down only slightly from a peak of 63.9% on July 24.  However, during the five-week period from July 24 to August 28, the portion of the country in exceptional drought (D4) increased from 2.4 to 6.0%. Read more »

USDA and Memphis Community Working Together in the Cotton Patch

Harvest day at the Cotton Patch, a People’s Garden in Memphis, Tenn.  The cumbers, okra, radishes and squash harvested by USDA employees and community members are all donated to the Mid-South Food Bank.  Photo courtesy Jeff Carnahan, Agricultural Marketing Service

Harvest day at the Cotton Patch, a People’s Garden in Memphis, Tenn. The cucumbers, okra, radishes and squash harvested by USDA employees and community members are all donated to the Mid-South Food Bank. Photo courtesy Jeff Carnahan, Agricultural Marketing Service

This summer, the Cotton Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) established a People’s Garden in Memphis, Tenn. The garden, suitably named “the Cotton Patch,” is a collaborative project developed and maintained by USDA employees and residents in the surrounding community.  The exotic garden features raised vegetable beds and a colorful Japanese maple tree, as well as flower and rose gardens. Read more »