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ERS Announces Partnership with the National Farm to School Network

This week my kids headed back to school, and I’ll be busier than last year, having been drafted to be PTA president.  While  getting to know the new parents at our school, I learned that several are interested in improving school meals and exploring the possibility of purchasing locally and starting a school vegetable garden.  Our new principal is interested too.  I myself have something of a brown thumb, but everyone was excited to hear that I work at the Department of Agriculture and had have been studying Farm to School initiatives throughout the country. I have been in close touch with USDA’s Farm to School team that will visit 15 school districts across the country to learn about their Farm to School activities.

When our agency, the Economic Research Service (ERS), put together the Food Environment Atlas earlier this year, we included information on which counties had at least one Farm to School program, using data from the National Farm to School Network.  The Network maintains the only national data base of Farm to School programs.  After the Atlas was released on our website, we received phone calls from programs that hadn’t been included, and this underscored the need to build a complete data base of these programs. Read more »

FSA Administrator Learns of Real-World Recovery Act Experiences in Alabama

FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess (right) speaks with cotton farmer Sanford Peeples about the benefits of Recovery Act funding that has supported several FSA programs.

FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess (right) speaks with cotton farmer Sanford Peeples about the benefits of Recovery Act funding that has supported several FSA programs.

Farm Service Agency Administrator Jonathan Coppess met earlier this month with local farmers in Wetumpka, Ala., to discuss how assistance from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) has helped their farming operation.  Read more »

USDA in Nebraska Collects More Than 8,300 Pounds of Food

Mackayla Wallin, age five, makes her contribution to feed the hungry in Grant, Neb. at the recent “Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families” food drive.

Mackayla Wallin, age five, makes her contribution to feed the hungry in Grant, Neb. at the recent “Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families” food drive.

USDA Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, and Natural Resource Conservation Service in Nebraska held the “Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families” food drive through July 30, from which 8,352 pounds of food were collected. Read more »

SNAP Community Roundtables in Chicago Yield Feedback

Deputy Administrator Lisa Pino and Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg gained insight from local community leaders on how to reach populations eligible for SNAP benefits Community Roundtable held at Illinois Department of Human Services’ Western office.

Deputy Administrator Lisa Pino and Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg gained insight from local community leaders on how to reach populations eligible for SNAP benefits Community Roundtable held at Illinois Department of Human Services’ Western office.

Chicago in August concluded our USDA Community Roundtable tour, where our Food and Nutrition Service and Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships met with almost 100 community and state partners to discuss how to improve access to SNAP at a time of growing need for food throughout the country. There my colleague Max Finberg, Director of the Center, and I met with wonderful people all over the city dedicated to fighting hunger. From the South Side to the West Side, we shared ideas with churches and other faith-based organizations, community advocates, food banks, outreach workers, school districts, community hospitals and clinics, and our state partners to discuss how to improve access to SNAP and our other fourteen USDA nutrition assistance programs. Read more »

Understanding Farms in the United States

A family stands in a plot of tall grass plantings on a farm in central Iowa. NRCS photo.

A family stands in a plot of tall grass plantings on a farm in central Iowa. NRCS photo.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What are U.S. farms like?  Are they largely family businesses, or corporate operations?  Describing farms is challenging because they vary in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to businesses with sales in the millions of dollars.  Descriptions based on U.S. averages hide much of the variation. Read more »

“Raising of the Ball”-A South Dakota Community Uses Recovery Act Funds to Improve its Water System

Community leaders from the Town of Ipswitch, South Dakota celebrate the construction of a new water tower.

Community leaders from the Town of Ipswich, South Dakota celebrate the construction of a new water tower.

USDA Rural Development joined Ipswich, South Dakota city officials, congressional staff, partners, and members of the community recently for a “raising of the ball” event.    There was excitement in the air as the National Anthem was sung by members of the Ipswich High School chorus, drum roll, and all eyes focused on the crane raising the “ball” to complete the 150,000 gallon elevated tower.    This was definitely a site to see as history was in the making in this small rural town – population 943.  The original system, including the tower and lines were constructed back in 1910 – 100 years ago. Read more »