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Back-to-School and On a Mission to Spread Health

Sharon Foster of James Bowie Elementary School in Dallas is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Ellen Yale

Sharon Foster of James Bowie Elementary School in Dallas is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Ellen Yale

Today’s guest post in our Cafeteria Stories series comes from Sharon Foster, a physical education teacher dedicated to paving a path of success for her students.  Ms. Foster describes the importance of a healthy school nutrition environment, as well as involving students in the change process (something I wholeheartedly support!).  Due to her motivation and successes, Ms. Foster now serves as an ambassador for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

By Sharon Foster, Physical Education Teacher at James Bowie Elementary School

As students at James Bowie Elementary School head back to school this fall, I feel good about the fact we are providing healthy meals, drinks, and snacks at school because I know we’re helping our students build strong minds and bodies.

It wasn’t always that way at our school. Before we started our journey by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, our students were snacking on salty foods and sugary drinks outside the cafeteria and were not ready to learn when they came to class. Read more »

US Forest Service Chief Highlights Importance of Agency’s Role in Evaluating Groundwater Resources

As part of the Forest Service’s renewed emphasis on water quality and availability, the agency is developing a comprehensive policy to manage groundwater resources on national forests and grasslands.  Greer spring is found on the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Carlson)

As part of the Forest Service’s renewed emphasis on water quality and availability, the agency is developing a comprehensive policy to manage groundwater resources on national forests and grasslands. Greer spring is found on the Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri. (U.S. Forest Service/Chris Carlson)

In recent years, we’ve seen growing concerns about the availability and quality of water across the country. Drought, climate change, land use changes, and needs for additional water highlight these concerns. Stewardship of water resources is one of this country’s most important natural resource issues. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons national forests and grasslands were created.

As part of our renewed emphasis on water, we are developing a comprehensive policy to monitor, assess, evaluate and measure groundwater resources on national forests and grasslands. We began seeking public comments on May 6 asking your thoughts on a plan to strengthen our ability to protect water resources and support healthy and resilient ecosystems on Forest Service-managed lands. We extended the comment period to Oct. 3. Read more »

USDA Teams Up with Vermont Beef Producers to Provide Local Market Data

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

It wasn’t too long ago that beef was far less traveled, and families often put a side of beef away in the freezer for the winter. Modern day conveniences make beef and the beef buying experience more suitable to a faster pace of life, but old traditions are hard to let go. Across the board, we’re seeing a return to buying local, and—although modern conveniences are still enjoyed—local beef is also more accessible.

USDA Market News, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, recently created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef.  As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Read more »

Poll Finds Most Parents Support Higher School Nutrition Standards

A new poll shows that parents of school-age children overwhelmingly support national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day. For more information, visit: www.pewtrusts.org/SchoolFoodParentPoll. Click to enlarge.

A new poll shows that parents of school-age children overwhelmingly support national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day. For more information, visit: www.pewtrusts.org/SchoolFoodParentPoll. Click to enlarge.

Over the past four years, USDA has worked closely with schools, parents, community leaders, and nutrition experts to ensure that when children go off to school, they are greeted by a healthier school environment.  According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, leading to an increase in obesity-related health outcomes in children, including cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, and bone and joint problems.  Improving school nutrition is vital to reducing childhood obesity, because many children consume half of their daily calories during the school day. Making the healthy choice the easy choice sets our nation’s children up for a lifetime of healthy choices, and supports a healthier next generation.  Recently, we’ve seen evidence that student acceptance of healthier meals is increasing across all grade levels.  Today, we are pleased to see the results of the latest poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association, showing that most parents support the healthier meal and snack standards implemented through the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.

Read more about the results of that study in this guest blog, from the American Heart Association.

A majority of parents favor strong national nutrition standards for food and drink sold at schools, according to a poll released Monday by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.

In addition, the poll found that parents would also like to see salt limited in school foods and more fruits and vegetables served. Read more »

Born to Pack: Second-Generation Mule Packer Turns Love of Animals and the Great Outdoors into an Exciting Career

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Lee Roeser was born to be a mule packer.  At a very early age, he learned the craft from his parents who ran a mule pack station in Mammoth Lakes, California. At age 6, he was already helping with the family business. By age 13, he began working as a packer; and at 16, he was hauling explosives, gear and tools for the public, the Forest Service and other government agencies, and mining and movie production companies.

“You must be passionate for the well-being of the animals,” said Roeser, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service on Inyo National Forest, home of one of the Pack Stock Centers of Excellence.  “I do it for that and my love of the mountains and opportunity to continue to learn.” Read more »

A “Brighter” Way to Save Money, Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Increase Productivity

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Sometimes greenhouse gases can be traced to greenhouses—or at least to their lighting systems.

That’s why the Albany City Council recently recognized USDA with a proclamation for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by installing energy-efficient lighting in the USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California.  The greenhouses are used by scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the retrofit advances the goals of the city’s 2010 Climate Change Action Plan because it reduces citywide electrical use and carbon emissions. Read more »