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The Sixth Tribal Nations Conference – Focusing on Youth

This week marked the sixth consecutive year tribal leaders have gathered here in Washington at the President’s invitation to meet with key members of the Obama Administration, but this time is different: more than three dozen youth ambassadors were in attendance to kick off “Generation Indigenous” (Gen-I) – a new initiative calling for programs focused on better preparing young American Indians and Alaska Natives for college and careers as well as developing leadership skills.  And it all started with the President’s visit last summer to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota.  The President and First Lady met with Native American youth and saw their promise, but also the challenges they face.

In addition to issuing a White House Native Youth Report, outlining past government shortcomings, current challenges and a path forward for Native youth, we will look at ways to improve educational opportunities for Native youth, including improving schools, and reforming the Indian education system. At USDA, that means we will be supporting the Generation Indigenous initiative by focusing on the support we provide to the Tribal Colleges and Universities, internships and other opportunities for Native youth, healthy food at their schools and at home, and funding for broadband, school construction and other community facilities. Read more »

Happy Holidays … Waste Not, Want Not!

When you prepare to welcome family and friends this holiday season, good planning can help avoid wasting food and save you money.

When you prepare to welcome family and friends this holiday season, good planning can help avoid wasting food and save you money.

November and December are traditionally times of celebration of various holidays in America, religious and secular.  This is a time for enjoyment and fellowship in the company of family, friends, and neighbors.  The celebrations almost always include gathering at dinner tables over feasts of the bounty our farmers provide.

Unfortunately, this is also a time when, after the celebration and feasting are done, a significant proportion of the leftover edible food is tossed in the trashcan or put down the disposal.  Much of this food ultimately ends up in landfills.

The Economic Research Service estimates that over 130 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten per year at the retail and consumer levels in the United States, equating to over 1,200 calories per day per man, woman, and child.  On average, this suggests that as a nation almost one-third of the edible food that could meet our caloric needs goes uneaten. Read more »

Green Thumbs near Green Bay: Menominee Tribe Cultivates Nutrition Education

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets.  I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants.  Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.

Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices.  A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation.  The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »

How to NOT Give Your Office Food Poisoning at the Holiday Party

Most offices host some sort of get-together this time of year and you may be asked to bring a dish. If you’re not bringing food to the office, you may be bringing something to another get-together with family or friends. Follow these tips to be sure your diners remember your nice contribution, instead of a naughty case of food poisoning. Read more »

Armchair Travelers Get a Close-Up Look of Southern Appalachian Waters

A pioneering snorkeling program on the Cherokee National Forest entices students to suit up in wet suits and snorkels.  As they immerse themselves in the clean, clear waters protected by the forest, the young visitors discover the amazing aquatic biodiversity that lies beneath including  a male (the long fingernails are diagnostic) Hieroglyphic River Cooter turtle seen in this photo.  (Photo courtesy of Dave Herasimtschuk © Freshwaters Illustrated)

A pioneering snorkeling program on the Cherokee National Forest entices students to suit up in wet suits and snorkels. As they immerse themselves in the clean, clear waters protected by the forest, the young visitors discover the amazing aquatic biodiversity that lies beneath including a male (the long fingernails are diagnostic) Hieroglyphic River Cooter turtle seen in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Dave Herasimtschuk © Freshwaters Illustrated)

Deep into the Cherokee National Forest on the headwaters of the Conasauga River, an innovative river conservation program brings thousands of citizen snorkelers to the vibrant waters of Southern Appalachia.  Now armchair travelers can enjoy this experience via a six-minute online film.

“A Deeper Creek – The Watchable Waters of Southern Appalachia,” produced by Freshwaters Illustrated in partnership with the Forest Service, takes the viewer to a pool in the river’s headwaters in southern Tennessee and northwest Georgia. The flowing waters teem with 70 species of fish and a dozen species of freshwater mussels and enjoys a “virtual” snorkeling experience. Read more »

Conservation Programs Help Nebraska Farmer Install, Improve Irrigation System

Center pivot irrigation systems use less water and are more efficient at uniformly distributing water across a field. NRCS photo by Jacob Robison.

Center pivot irrigation systems use less water and are more efficient at uniformly distributing water across a field. NRCS photo by Jacob Robison.

As a little girl, Mary Kay Lyon followed her father around their south central Nebraska farm always dreaming of one day owning the operation herself. Lyon left the farm to attend college, but eventually made it back home when her father retired, determined to run the family farm.

“I wanted to farm since I was old enough to walk,” Lyon said.

Lyon grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle on the farm. Upon her return, she immediately began looking for ways to make improvements. Their crops have always been watered through an irrigation system, but Lyon knew improvements were needed on the old water delivery system. Read more »