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June is Homeownership Month

By USDA Rural Development Housing Administrator Tammye Treviño

June is Homeownership month!

This year’s theme is “Protecting the American Dream.”  Dozens of communities across the nation have planned events and activities throughout June to highlight their role in supporting homeownership. During June, USDA officials will highlight the benefits of homeownership and share information on ways families can remain successful homeowners. In addition to direct home loan funds, USDA also can assist in providing weatherization and energy efficiency improvements, reduce health and safety risks and improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

We assist American families each day.  For example, In Missouri, newlyweds Charles and Naomi Hess heard about USDA Rural Development’s housing program through their parents.  Working through the Moberly Rural Development office, the couple applied for a direct loan with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They were able to buy a home with a monthly payment they could afford.

President Obama and USDA are committed to bringing the necessary resources to rural America provide decent, affordable housing to those who need it.  As Secretary Vilsack said recently, “A strong Nation is made up of strong families, and safe, quality housing contributes greatly to rural Americans’ quality of life.”

With that in mind, USDA is reaching out to very-low income residents – residents who have traditionally made up a smaller portion of our pool of borrowers, but who are in great need of assistance in finding quality, affordable housing in their communities.  It is a challenge to reach these individuals, who disproportionately reside in the poorest and most rural counties in the country.  In an effort to reach these potential borrowers, I recently launched the Single-Family Housing direct loan Outreach Initiative.  This program, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, places special emphasis on reaching the residents of persistent poverty counties across the country.

We are working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, State and local partners and, of course lenders, to improve the quality of housing and make it possible for rural Americans to enjoy safe, affordable and sanitary housing. As a member of the Obama Administration, it is truly a privilege to serve as the Administrator of USDA’s Rural Housing programs.  I look forward to working with our partners and with the public through USDA’s State and area offices, to continue serve the residents of rural America.

Left to right:  USDA Rural Development staff Michelle Hoffman, Amy Milburn and Wylie Chandler stand in front of a home being constructed with USDA funding support.
Left to right:  USDA Rural Development staff Michelle Hoffman, Amy Milburn and Wylie Chandler stand in front of a home being constructed with USDA funding support.

USDA Community Facilities Funds Available to Help Indiana Communities Obtain Tornado Warning Sirens

Do you live in a rural community without a tornado warning siren?

“Right now we have money. We can help as many [communities] as come to us,” said Phil Lehmkuhler, Indiana’s rural development state director for the United States Department of Agriculture. Read more »

“The Big Garden” Spreads Like Wildflower

By USDA Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Inner city Omaha is an economically distressed area, especially among the predominantly African-American and senior populations. Poverty rates and obesity among young people are high and access to healthy, affordable food is low, especially for those who need it most.

Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, Executive Director of United Methodist Ministries for the Missouri River District, began “The Big Garden” project in 2005, aided by a grant from the USDA Community Food Projects.  Five gardens were established in 2006 and were met with a resoundingly enthusiastic response.  Just three years later, The Big Garden network had grown to 22 gardens through collaboration with area churches and a variety of community organizations. Residents have their choice of simply donating time to the gardens or taking responsibility for cultivating and caring for a plot of their own and then harvesting and enjoying the results. As part of the initial design of the program, a portion of the fresh produce is donated to seniors in the neighborhood.

Through a cooperative program with a local nursing association, cooking classes are taught as part of the area’s after school programs. Many of the young people participating have never eaten fresh fruits and vegetables. With the benefit of a grant from the Omaha Public Power Department, the project has planted a number of fruit and nut trees. According to Project Manager Jessica Mews, the young people working in the gardens love the fresh produce as well as many of the products generated from the gardens. Kale chips are a particular favorite and, according to Mews, the kids can’t get enough of them.

The Big Garden is now on to the next phase, a garden in rural Nebraska — “The Big Rural Garden Project of Southeast Nebraska.” An acre of land in Auburn, a small rural community nearby, was donated and the local Methodist Church is managing the program. They are also collaborating with the local United Way Fund using a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight obesity. In 2008, the Sierra Club recognized the Big Garden as one of 50 exceptional faith-based environmental initiatives in the U.S.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

 

Appalachian Early Child Development Center Receives Expansion Funds through USDA

For working parents in isolated rural communities, quality child care is a lifeline that allows them an opportunity to obtain employment so they can provide for their families. Read more »

Indiana Students Show USDA How to Eat Healthy and Be Active in School

By Susie Stanfield, Fishers Elementary Physical Education Teacher, Fishers, IN (near Indianapolis)

We were really excited when USDA Food and Nutrition Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe visited our school on Friday, May 21st. Students from Mrs. Trees’ 3rd grade class showed Ms. Rowe how fun it is to exercise in school by participating in a cardio/station activity focused on the “Indy 500 Race.” After class, everyone went to the cafeteria for lunch prepared by Tracy Huser, our cafeteria manager, and her staff. Ms. Rowe held a roundtable with parents, teachers, students, and our district administrators to discuss nutrition and school lunch options. We’re all hoping these ideas will help develop healthy eating habits for years to come and assist the next generation in fighting obesity and health problems.

Third graders in Fishers Elementary gym class.
Third graders in Fishers Elementary gym class.

Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe joins the Fishers Elementary School lunch line.
Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe joins the Fishers Elementary School lunch line.

Deputy Adminstrator Audrey Rowe enjoys lunch with third graders at Fishers Elementary School.
Deputy Adminstrator Audrey Rowe enjoys lunch with third graders at Fishers Elementary School.

Compost: A Gardner’s Basic Ally

Today, the People’s Garden hosted a workshop about composting. Pat Millner, who has done a lot of research on composting and utilizing compost at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland, taught it. It was fantastically fun and informative, and Pat brought in several examples of composters for us to see. Read more »