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A Renewable Energy Program Helps a Wisconsin Farm Family Conserve and Make a Profit

View of the Priske Farm, with USDA funded wind generator, from the restored prairie field.

View of the Priske Farm, with USDA funded wind generator, from the restored prairie field.

Last week I had the opportunity to witness, firsthand, a good example of how rural farm families can overcome the challenges of a changing rural economy and create a promising and sustainable future on the land. Read more »

South Dakota USDA Staff Unites to Fund Fight Against Cancer

The USDA Rural Development, Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff in Rapid City, South Dakota, combined efforts to raise money for Relay for Life in memory of a former co-worker and friend, Rural Development Specialist Jim Jirsa.  He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2010 and died on October 31, 2010.  In memory of Jim, local staff donated food and served lunch at the USDA office earlier this month.  The staff also participated in a variety of other fundraising events.

The staff raised approximately $4,200 for the event and the funds will go toward cancer research and cancer patient services.  The USDA staff was awarded a silver medal for their efforts in fund raising. Read more »

USDA Forest Service Helping to take Sting out of Bugs

How do you turn biting, stinging, pantry raiding, picnic ruining pests into pollinating, irrigating, aerating, fertilizing, ecosystem balancing helpers? … By educating as many people as possible about the role of bugs in the environment.

One of the responsibilities of the U.S. Forest Service is to inform the public about the value of insects in helping to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands.

With many people either afraid of or grossed out by bugs, changing their negative image is a challenge. However, a partnership between the Forest Service Southern Research Station and Kent House, in Alexandria, La., is demonstrating a growing public interest in insects. Read more »

Chicago Celebrates “Go for the Gold” in Food and Fitness

How many mascots does it take to turn a school assembly into a celebration?  Well, on June 7, not one, not two, but a total of SEVEN mascots rocked the Chicago Public Schools’ “Go for the Gold” HealthierUS School Challenge celebration at Walsh Elementary School. Three major Chicago sports teams sent their mascots to delight the kids and support the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Benny the Bull of the Chicago Bulls, Staley Da Bear (Chicago Bears) and DIBS (De Paul University Blue Demons basketball) brought down the house, with Benny shooting a basket from clear across the gym and Staley and DIBS battling it out on the drums.

Joining the merriment were USDA’s Power Panther and three mascots from Chartwells Hospitality (CPS school meals provider). Univision TV reporter Enrique Rodriguez and emcee extraordinaire kept the mascots on their toes and had the entire gym shouting “Eat Smart…Play Hard…Let’s Move!…Go for the Gold!” Read more »

Listening to Business Leaders from York, PA

On Friday afternoon, I sat down with business leaders from York County, Pennsylvania to get their input on how the Federal government can work with them to improve economic conditions and create jobs.  Among the participants were members of the York Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as representatives from marketing, computer technology, and renewable energy manufacturing industries.

The session, the most recent in an ongoing series of White House Business Council meetings, was hosted by Alan Shortall, CEO of Unilife Corporation, a manufacturer and supplier of advanced safety medical syringes.   Have you heard people talk about companies moving off-shore to China?  Well, Alan told the reverse tale, as he kicked off our meeting.  His company moved their manufacturing operation from China to the United States because of our high-end engineering expertise, which Alan argued, is an unmatched core competency of the United States.   Since it set up shop in Pennsylvania in 2006, Unilife has employed 200 people and this number is expected to double by 2015.  Not only are these good jobs and critical to the economy of York, but Alan said he will be spending at least $40 million on US purchases of equipment in the next year.  Now, that’s stimulus! Read more »

USDA Works with Partners to Feed Children in the Summer Months

On June 9th, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service kicked off the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) — “Food That’s In When School Is Out”, in Atlanta by visiting the Marietta Community Center in Marietta, Georgia as part of USDA’s first ever National SFSP Celebration Week. The Center provided free meals and a nutrition class on the new USDA MyPlate to 50 wonderful children, as feeding kids during the summer can pose a challenge to some parents when school meals are no longer available.

Although the SFSP program is completely dedicate to helping kids during the summer, when they are most vulnerable to experiencing hunger because school is out, our participation rate on this program is only 17%, but USDA is doing everything it can to get more meals to children during the summer months. We need to be sure that every child who should be receiving a summer meal gets one because no child should ever be going hungry. Although our National School Lunch Program is serving more than 21 million children during the school year, we are only serving 3 million children through SFSP, so clearly there is still a long way to go in reaching all the children who are eligible for this program, and we need everyone’s help to pitch in. Read more »