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500 Florida School Kids Adopt New Skills Learned in the Great Outdoors

Natural Resource Manager Carl Petrick of the National Forests in Florida looks on as a high school student sets his sights on the archery range. Nearly 500 students from area schools attended the recent More Kids in the Woods event. (Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests of Florida)

Natural Resource Manager Carl Petrick of the National Forests in Florida looks on as a high school student sets his sights on the archery range. Nearly 500 students from area schools attended the recent More Kids in the Woods event. (Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests of Florida)

What makes 500 middle and high school kids from area schools near Tallahassee, Fla., happy?  Getting outside and embracing the great outdoors during a week-long U.S. Forest Service event known as ‘More Kids in the Woods.’

During the five-day outdoor event , the kids developed new skills related to archery and using BB gun ranges, discovered wild turkey hunting, and immersed themselves in wildlife interpretive and forestry information, including a demonstration of a prescribed burn to learn more about the role fire plays in managing ecosystems. Read more »

USDA Staff in Mississippi Honor the Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King with a Day of Service

On January 12, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack recognized and celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday by declaring a National Service Day for all USDA employees. The National Service Day honored Dr. King’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Events were held simultaneously at all USDA Offices followed by a variety of Service Projects conducted in communities nationwide. USDA Rural Development Jackson, Mississippi state office employees, Michelle Wilkerson, Eliza Garcia, Ericka Butler, and Jennifer Jimerson spent National Service Day volunteering at the Jackson Stewpot Community Center. Read more »

Meet Face (and Hands) of Food Safety Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson

The job of communicating food safety information to deaf and hard of hearing consumers is, literally, in Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson's hands.

The job of communicating food safety information to deaf and hard of hearing consumers is, literally, in Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson's hands.

“Food safety worker” may bring to mind images of scientists in lab coats, inspectors at processing plants, or investigators checking out what’s on supermarket shelves. A crucial but less recognized component of protecting the public from foodborne illness, however, rests on the shoulders of those who alert consumers about potential dangers and actions they should take to keep themselves healthy and safe (Goal 3 of FSIS’ FY 2011-2016 Strategic Plan). And some of those consumers can be difficult to reach. Enter Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson, a top-notch communicator who can make sense out of the most complex language and fashion it so that it is easily understood by consumers. Read more »

Forests in Arizona Train Veterans

Civilian life is unlike that of military life in the service.  Two forests, the Apache-Sitgreaves and the Prescott National Forest have recently developed programs to help veterans in their transition to civilian life.

Through grants obtained by the U.S. Forest Service, these programs were offered to veterans from multiple branches of the armed forces with varied military service backgrounds.  Veterans were hired to these corps teams and worked on fuels reduction as wildland firefighters doing wildland fire suppression. Read more »

Good Food for All People: Food Hubs at Work in Philadelphia

Leveraging the buying power of the entire community creates a steady demand for local farmers and brings fresh produce, like the squash pictured above, to community hospitals and schools.

Leveraging the buying power of the entire community creates a steady demand for local farmers and brings fresh produce, like the squash pictured above, to community hospitals and schools.

There are many communities across the country grappling with limited access to affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables at a time when these same communities are fighting rising rates of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses. The very definition of community—that inter-connectedness between residents, businesses, hospitals and schools—means that health or food issues that affect one part of the community can have a negative impact on the rest. Read more »

Working With Our Partners for a Healthier Future

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year. Also, in In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced “Let’s Move” incorporating the HealthierUS School Challenge into her campaign to promote a healthier generation of children. USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in over 15 years. The new standards encourage fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes at the Parklawn Elementary School Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.  USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

First Lady Michelle Obama joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at Parklawn Elementary School to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Wednesday was a monumental day for kids, families, educators, administrators, food service workers and the advocates who have led the charge and worked hand in hand to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s school children.

For the first time in over a decade the federal government has made significant changes to school meals that will provide kids across the country with the nourishment they will need to flourish in school and in life. Read more »