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What Can the Food Environment Atlas Tell You?

Understanding a community’s food environment is key to understanding a community’s identity.  But what can a “food environment” tell us?

A community’s food environment is a technical term for assessing information about the who, what, where, and how of food availability in a given community: Who are the people in the community?

What kinds of food outlets are available in their area? How accessible are grocery stores and supermarkets? What are some of the health statistics? Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Reducing Pain at the Pump for Americans

As Americans joined family and friends to celebrate America’s independence, tens of millions took to our highways and Interstates – and I know that gas prices were on the minds of many.

President Obama understands the impact gas prices can have for families, and he is committed to an “all of the above” energy approach to solving our nation’s energy challenges – including reducing pain at the pump.

That includes developing the homegrown biofuels that save Americans money at the gas station and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Read more »

Successful Weatherization of Navajo Homes Made Possible with USDA Help

Two groups of volunteers worked to replace the roof and build a sturdy new porch with wheelchair ramp for a Navajo resident.

Though the morning could be cool, even pleasant at times, scorching heat was promised to each of the more than 250 volunteer students who signed up and traveled – some more than 2,000 miles – to Monument Valley, Utah, to work in the desert sun on Navajo homes. Read more »

Going Green: Green Roofs and Rain Barrels

Here is the concept drawing for the People’s Garden exhibit at the  2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival including the green roof and rain barrel. Drawing by Dixi Wang, USDA landscape architect intern.

Here is the concept drawing for the People’s Garden exhibit at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival including the green roof and rain barrel. Drawing by Dixi Wang, USDA landscape architect intern.

In my first interview I talked about the design and construction of the People’s Garden shed located at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the importance of using reclaimed materials. The shed also includes a variety of environmentally-friendly features such as a green roof and rain barrel. Visitors are asking how a green roof and rain barrel are built, and what environmental benefits they provide. I talked with Edward Murtagh, Sustainable Operations Manager in USDA’s Office of Operations about the addition of a green roof and rain barrel to the shed. Read more »

History and Research Converge in American Chestnut Reintroduction

Leila Pinchot with an American chestnut sapling.

Leila Pinchot with an American chestnut sapling.

You may start out wanting to talk to Leila Pinchot about a Forest Service icon, but the great granddaughter of Gifford Pinchot has much more to say about the future of another legend, the American chestnut.

One of the seminal figures in world conservation, Gifford Pinchot founded and served as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service. The eastern forests we know today are distinctly different than the forests Gifford Pinchot would have known 100 years ago – they are missing the American chestnut, which dominated forests in the eastern United States. Read more »

Opening Doors for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers in National Retail Markets

A GAP-certified farm field. Through a new agreement, AMS will provide auditing services to verify farmers are meeting Produce GAP Harmonized Food Safety Standards and Wal-Mart specific food safety requirements. Photo provided by Mission Produce

When buying produce, many consumers note food safety as one of the most important things they consider.  Consumers prefer produce backed by trustworthy verified and certified processes. As a result, more retail and foodservice sectors are requiring growers to undergo food safety audits.  In an effort to meet this demand, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fresh Products Division, which provides voluntary, audit-based programs utilizing Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP), recently reached an agreement with Wal-Mart.  Read more »