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USDA Recovery Act Funding Improves Water Quality in a Nebraska Community

USDA Rural Development Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, staff and the residents of  Stromsburg celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day recently with the announcement of more than $2.2 million in planned improvements to the City’s municipal water system.  The improvements will bring the system, serving more than 500 users, into compliance with new Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.  Special recognition was given to those who were instrumental to the project as they each signed a segment of water pipe. Read more »

USDA Breaks Ground on People’s Garden in Delaware

Brad Fisher, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

On May 20, 2010, the USDA State Office in Dover, Delaware broke ground on its People’s Garden, answering Secretary Vilsack’s call to plant such gardens at Department offices around the globe. The Secretary established the People’s Garden project in February 2009 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.  (See the groundbreaking on YouTube.)  Since then, more than 300 People’s Garden have blossomed across the country.

The office has 80 Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Information Technology Services employees. The employees will volunteer their time to help care for and harvest the garden. The garden’s bounty will help needy families in the area and provide a hands-on learning experience for second graders at North Dover Elementary School.

And not only does the Delaware garden grow food, it grows partnerships, as well. At the ceremony, NRCS Chief Dave White pointed to the cooperative efforts by federal and state agencies, schools, and private conservation groups to make the garden a reality.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook told the crowd that this and other People’s Garden’s are important to making people aware of where their food comes from and encouraging smart eating.

Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, affirmed that People’s Gardens educate the public about the work that farmers do every day to provide food, fiber, and fuel. 

NRCS Delaware State Conservationist Russell Morgan said that he sees People’s Gardens as ways to teach lessons in taking better care of natural resources.

One phase of the People’s Garden at the USDA office in Dover is the expansion of a rain garden. Storm water runoff and flooding are top concerns in the Delaware Estuary because of the damage that can occur when large volumes of rainwater occur.

Learn more about the People’s Garden movement at www.usda.gov/peoplesgarden.

NRCS employees dig out paths and install borders and landscape fabric.

NRCS employees dig out paths and install borders and landscape fabric.

The garden is in the final construction stages. Only a few more steps to complete before the ground is ready for spring planting.

The garden is in the final construction stages. Only a few more steps to complete before the ground is ready for spring planting.

FFAS Deputy Under Secretary Vetter Travels to Kenya to Recognize World Food Program Projects and Their Impact on Food Security

I recently returned from Nairobi, where I got a firsthand look at USDA’s food aid programs. Due to volcanic ash in Europe, my arrival was delayed by 36 hours.  I tried to outmaneuver the cloud by taking the scenic route — Washington to Boston to Amsterdam to Paris to Nairobi.  While I enjoyed my multi-airport tour, Mother Nature still got the best of me.  She added further insult by holding my luggage in a city other than Nairobi.

During my time in Africa, I gained an appreciation for the excellent results that the World Food Program (WFP) and private voluntary organizations are producing with resources provided by the U.S. food aid programs.

Senator George McGovern and I visited programs that are helping adults and children with HIV and AIDS. While it was heartbreaking to see so many infants, children, and adults with this disease, U.S. Government programs are providing relief and hope to these children and families. Read more »

Earth Day in North Dakota Celebrated with School Children and Tree Planting

Written by Jane Grant, Public Information Officer

The spirit of the first Earth Day, 40 years ago, continued this year in Finley as North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider joined Rural Utilities Representative John Padalino, Finley Mayor Larry Amundson, local leaders, and Finley school children and the community to celebrate the announcement of a water and environmental project totaling $1.7 million.

“USDA Rural Development is proud to be a partner in this project helping the city of Finley build and upgrade essential infrastructure demonstrating President Obama’s continued efforts to improve the quality of life for rural residents,” State Director Schneider said.

Manholes, sewer mains and sewer lines will be replaced, improving water quality for Finley residents.

The school children played a major role in celebrating Earth Day starting with Boy Scouts presenting  the colors and the students leading the Pledge of Allegiance.  They shared their ideas and rapped a song about how each person can play a role in creating a cleaner, healthier planet.  To demonstrate their commitment to the planet, the students walked back to school picking up trash along the way.

An American Linden tree was planted in Centennial Park, to serve as a reminder of Earth Day 2010.

North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider (left) shovels during a tree planting ceremony celebrating Earth Day 2010, in Finley, ND. Assisting are Finley Mayor Larry Amundson (center) and Special Assistant for Rural Utilities John Padalino (right).

North Dakota Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider (left) shovels during a tree planting ceremony celebrating Earth Day 2010, in Finley, ND. Assisting are Finley Mayor Larry Amundson (center) and Special Assistant for Rural Utilities John Padalino (right). 

Mobilize to Make a Difference – Join an Apps for Healthy Kids Game Jam this Weekend!

A few short weeks week ago we announced an exciting partnership with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) to kindle innovation and creativity and offering unique opportunities for Apps for Healthy Kids contestants.  Now the excitement is about to begin.

Later today, Game Jams will kick off nationwide to provide support and feedback for designers and developers as they create games and apps with a nutrition focus for the competition. The game jams will draw game developers, graphic artists, and local youth together to brainstorm ideas and produce video game prototypes from scratch in just 48 hours.

Adding to the buzz, U.S. Chief technology Officer Aneesh Chopra will be on hand this afternoon at the George Mason University Game Jam to open the weekend of innovation. Tune in later this evening to watch his call to action and get the creativity flowing. His opening remarks will be streamed live at 5pm here. 

As many of you followers of the game scene know, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop innovative, fun, and engaging tools and games that help kids and their parents eat better and be more physically active. Prizes totaling $60,000 will be awarded to the entries that are voted the best by a panel of expert judges.

This weekend’s jams will offer a great opportunity for amateur and professional developers to share ideas and make great progress on their submissions. The prototypes created during the jams will be displayed at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference, May 26-27, 2010 in Boston, further refined, and submitted to the Apps for Healthy Kids competition before the June 30th deadline.

Current Game Jam locations include:

 

  • Boston, MA: Microsoft New England Research and Development, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. Runs Friday 5pm-9pm, Saturday 9am-9pm, Sunday 9am-6pm. Meals will be provided, but computers will not (so bring your own if possible). Boston announcement is here, if interested visit their registration page. For questions, contact the Boston organizer: Darius Kazemi (darius.kazemi@gmail.com)
  • Seattle, WA: Art Institute of Seattle, 2501 Elliott Ave, Seattle WA – Room 102 (enter at the main entrance on Alaskan Way, other entrances may be locked). Runs Friday 4pm-midnight, Saturday 9am-midnight, Sunday 9am-4pm. Be aware there is only street parking and paid garages in the area, so plan accordingly. Seattle organizer: Rusel DeMaria (rdemaria@aii.edu)
  • Orlando, FL: ZeeGee Games, 1 Purlieu Place, Winter Park FL. Runs Friday 6pm-10pm, Saturday 10am-10pm, Sunday 10am-5pm. If interested, visit their Facebook page for more info and to RSVP. Orlando organizer: Dustin Clingman (dustin.clingman@imilabs.com)
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, 700 Technology Drive. Runs Saturday 10am through Sunday 10am (overnight), with an additional Physical Game Jam from Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event page to sign up. Pittsburgh organizer: Jia Ji (jia@couchange.org)
  • Albany, NY: Troy Boys and Girls Club, 1700 Seventh Ave, Troy NY. Runs Friday 6pm-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 10am-4pm. If interested, visit their event website for more info. New York organizer: Ian Stead (albanyigda@gmail.com)
  • Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, Fairfax Campus, Art and Design Building RM 1018. Starts Friday at 5pm. Participants should bring their own computers if possible. Meals will be provided. Fairfax organizers: Joel Gonzalez (gamejam@lowpolycount.com) and Scott Martin (smartin4@gmu.edu)
  • Athens, GA: Mowerks Learning, 130 Ware Street, Unit A. Athens organizer: Jordan Lynn (jordanlynn@mowerkslearning.com)

 

So get jammin’!

By Amanda Eamich, Director of New Media, USDA

Health Games Challenge Logo

USDA Forest Service Employees Partner with Non-Profits in their Vallejo, CA Community (Blog readers can help us win a grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods!)

By Amanda Cundiff, Forest Service Region 5 Partnership Coordinator and Lara Polansky, Forest Service Presidential Management FellowIn Vallejo, California, on a decommissioned Naval Shipyard called Mare Island, something good has emerged from hard times: a new community coalition to build and sustain a city garden. Home to over 110,000 individuals, Vallejo is known for being diverse, depressed, crime-ridden, and bankrupt. Since the Naval Shipyard closed and the recession hit, Vallejo has struggled with poverty, stretched city services, and troubled schools. Crime and poverty are high, and, perhaps as a result, Vallejo is a quintessential food desert.

Our coalition envisions a People’s Garden for Vallejo. The Garden will provide fresh produce to low-income residents and teach sustainable gardening practices. Coalition members each bring something vital to the project: volunteers to build and maintain the garden, low-income clients to benefit from vegetables and fresh eggs, and students to learn about nutrition and food production through action.

The lead partners in the Vallejo People’s Garden are:

Global Center for Success (www.globalcenterforsuccess.org) is a 501(c)(3) on Mare Island that provides supportive human services and programs to the homeless and needy. GCS is excited to start a garden right in its backyard to serve as an outdoor classroom, a community hub, and a source of free organic produce for its clients.

The Regional Office of the USDA Forest Service, located on Mare Island, employs over 200 people. The Forest Service will contribute volunteers and (eventually) land for a second garden. The convenient location of the Vallejo People’s Garden will provide an opportunity for employees to meet and work alongside our neighbors and have a healthy place to volunteer during lunch breaks and after work.

Betty Frank Senior Lunch Program is a 501(c)(3) feeding program that serves lunch daily in a community center, about 10 minutes from Mare Island in Vallejo. The coalition plans to provide fresh produce to this senior center’s kitchen and to arrange visits for seniors to tour and even volunteer in the garden. The drawn plans for the garden include handicapped-accessible raised beds that will be easy for seniors to reach. Additionally, teachers at Mare Island Elementary School across the street from the future garden site are excited about bringing students over for lessons in food production and nutrition.

Landscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional OfficeLandscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional Office

To jump start these “shovel ready” projects, the Forest Service Region 5 Regional Office is competing for a grant from Nature’s Path Organics.  A Nature’s Path grant would provide funds to purchase the materials, tools, and lumber to build raised beds, compost bins, a chicken house, bee hive, fencing, educational signs, rain barrels, and storage shed.

To VOTE for the “Vallejo People’s Garden”:

1.      1. Go to  http://www.justmeans.com/contestidea?ideaid=NDUz  and click on “VOTE”

2.      2. Create an account by giving your name, personal email address (Forest Service email address won’t work), and making up a password

3.      3. Check your email and click on the link to activate your account.    You are now done voting for us! 

Bonus points:  You can add a message of support in the comment box.

Your votes and comments are the only way for us to demonstrate support for this project and convince Nature’s Path Organic to fund this project.    The deadline for votes is May 31.

The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.