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True GRITS: Fighting Obesity in the South

It was a sunny and warm day in Frisco, Texas, on January 13. You would never know that it was the dead of winter. It was a perfect day to drive from Dallas to the suburbs well north of the city, to attend the GRITS Regional Summit on Childhood Obesity. Yes, that’s GRITS. No, not the go-to southern breakfast food, but Girls Raised In The South, hosted by Sisterbration, a nonprofit dedicated to prevention education for women and girls living in the South.

Sisterbration partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health and the Dallas Area Coalition to Prevent Childhood Obesity for an excellent day of awareness and education against childhood obesity. Shannon Jones, our section chief of policy for Southwest Region Special Nutrition Programs, gave a presentation on food insecurity, and detailed some of USDA’s programs that create a safety net against hunger. Read more »

Celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday and USDA’s Birthday

 President Abraham Lincoln creator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

President Abraham Lincoln creator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On February 12, President Lincoln’s birthday, let’s take a moment to appreciate the many impressive accomplishments that our Nation’s 16th President achieved during his four years in office.  Many of those accomplishments have a direct tie-in to the success of American agriculture. Lincoln’s birthday is especially important to us because 2012 is the 150th anniversary of USDA.  Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the department in 1862. Read more »

USDA Value Added Producer Grants: Turning Great Ideas into Sustainable Business

Earlier this month, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced almost 300 Value Added Producer Grant recipients across the Nation.  Each one of those recipients has a story, and a dream that, with help from USDA, will become reality. From producing pumpkin puree and gourmet cheese to expanding a caviar production operation in Idaho (Yes, Idaho), Rural Americans are using these matching grants to grow their businesses and bring high quality products to market.

Using funding provided through the USDA Value Added Producer Grant program, an Idaho producer will expand sales of gourmet caviar. Photo by Ashley Smith, Times-News staff photographer, used with permission.

Using funding provided through the USDA Value Added Producer Grant program, an Idaho producer will expand sales of gourmet caviar. Photo by Ashley Smith, Times-News staff photographer, used with permission.

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Thanks to Rural Development Support, Investment Dollars Save Jobs and Boost a South Dakota Town

The City of Murdo, South Dakota, is located at the crossroads of Interstate 90 and Highway 83 in the middle of the State.  A town with a population of 500 in a county with one person per square mile; Murdo has several new businesses and recreational activities that keeps the town thriving.

An all-volunteer Murdo Development Corporation manages a local revolving loan fund started through a USDA Rural Development Rural Business and Enterprise Grant (RBEG).  From creating jobs to helping to retain them at the local golf course to funding improvements to the local grocery store, Murdo Family Foods, the loan fund has assisted in the growth of the community. Read more »

Yes, We Have No Bananas

We left the cool warehouse with sticky shoes and smelling of spoiled bananas, but also with a warm feeling for having helped the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas ensure healthy, fresh food for their clients. Hundreds of cases of bananas had been donated, but when food bank staff checked the produce it was too spoiled to be used.  However, the sturdy produce boxes could be salvaged for further use, so 32 USDA volunteers from the Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Office and USDA Risk Management Agency rolled up their sleeves to empty and then reassemble the boxes.  This was a great opportunity for us to work together with other USDA employees and see the food bank in operation first hand. The project was part of the January 12th USDA National Day of Service honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Secretary’s Column: Skills for American Workers

As America works towards an economy that’s built to last, we must make sure to provide American workers with the skills they need to compete.

If we want to build an economy that makes, creates and innovates; if we want to usher in a new era for American manufacturing and American-produced energy; our students and workers need a good education and strong training.

At USDA, one of our jobs is to help American workers learn the skills they need to be ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow. Read more »