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Removal of Invasive Tree Improves Health of American Samoa Forests

Dead Tamaligi trees with recovering native forest in the National Park of American Samoa. Photo credit: Tavita Togia, National Park of American Samoa.

Removal of destructive invasive trees is an ongoing challenge for the U.S. Forest Service. What folks might not realize is that this challenge of protecting native forests extends all the way to the South Pacific.  Read more »

USDA Offers Funding to Support School Nutrition

6 cent rule is a linchpin to schools adopting new meal standards that will improve kids’ meal choices in the cafeteria.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has issued an important piece of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – the 6 cent interim final rule – to give schools and communities the tools to meet the challenge of providing more nutritious food. This rule is another big step to provide our children with the nutrition they need in school to be healthy, active and ready to face the future.

In January, USDA unveiled new standards for school meals based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These updates will result in healthier meals for kids across the nation.  The 6 cent interim final rule is important because it establishes the requirements for states to certify school district compliance with the new meal standards. Once certified, school districts that meet the meal standards will be reimbursed an additional 6 cents for each lunch served. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Farm, Food and Jobs Bill This Year

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee took a first look at a proposed version of the Farm Bill – or, as I call it – the farm, food and jobs bill. This is an important first step in the process to write the legislation and get it passed into law.

Farmers, ranchers, and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward.

With the current law expiring, we cannot wait any longer to reauthorize this essential law for rural America. It needs to happen this year. Read more »

Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest Helps Reestablish the Eastern Indigo Snake

A partnership of federal, state and private organizations are working together to re-establish a population of eastern indigo snakes in Alabama.

Alabama conservationists are closer to regenerating a population of the threatened eastern indigo snake in the Conecuh National Forest through the release of numerous juvenile snakes on the forest. The indigo snake is North America’s largest native snake, and plays an important ecological role in Alabama’s wildlife diversity.  Read more »

Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth School Pilot Program: Training Teachers Coast to Coast

A classroom floor becomes a garden as 2nd graders at Hiawatha Elementary in Webster, Iowa decide which of their favorite fruits and vegetables will be planted in their school garden. Gathered in anticipation around a rectangle that represents the actual size of the garden bed, their teacher skillfully guides the planning, helping them consider which plants will thrive in Iowa’s climate, which plants require more or less sun, and which plants will be compatible neighbors.

Along the way, the teacher introduces math concepts – deftly integrating her classroom lessons into a real world experience. Soon the students will be planting this garden for real – just as they have planned it – as will 4,000 other youth in 57 schools in Iowa, Arkansas, New York and Washington participating in Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth (HGHY), a project of the People’s Garden School Pilot Project. Read more »

Organic 101: The Lifecycle of Organic Food Production

This is the fifth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.

Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture. Read more »