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Lively Discussion at Pennsylvania Jobs and Economic Growth Roundtable

Late last month Bill Wehry, State Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency and I warmly welcomed a crowd of over 35 to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Building for a roundtable discussion on jobs and economic growth in Pennsylvania. This event was held on a Monday following an intense snowstorm.  Read more »

Resolved: A Food-Safe 2010

It’s that time of year again, when we all make promises to “do better” or “do more” in the new year. These may include getting more exercise, doing more reading, or eating better. But one of the most important resolutions for you and your family is to improve food safety in your home and workplace. 

Here are just a few food safety resolutions for 2010:

  • Buy a food thermometer. You’ve been told to do it. You’ve thought about it. This year, do it. Using a food thermometer is the only way to know if meat, poultry and fish are cooked to a safe temperature. You can’t tell just by looking at the color.
  • Use appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer. The temperature in the refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F; the freezer should be 0 degrees F or below.  These settings ensure food stays out of the “Danger Zone” where bacteria multiply.
  • Do not leave pizza sitting out for longer than two hours. Foods that sit out for more than two hours at room temperature–or 1 hour if the room or outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees F–can support bacteria growth.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you’re not sure if your food has been sitting out too long, throw it away.  Remember, your health is worth more than the cost of any food you try to save.
  • Keep your hands clean. This cannot be stressed enough. Clean hands prevent the transfer of bacteria to other surfaces or food items and prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and after preparing food, using the bathroom, changing diapers and touching pets.
  • Toss leftovers and take-out or ready-to-eat foods that have been sitting in your refrigerator for four days or longer.
  • Don’t get rid of old leftovers or take-out food by feeding it to your pets! Pets can get foodborne illness just as we can. If you shouldn’t eat it, then your pet shouldn’t eat it either.

Make this New Year a safe one by promising to follow proper food handling, preparation and storage practices. This is one resolution it’s important to keep all year—for yourself and your family.

If you have food safety questions, you can contact “Ask Karen,” our virtual representative, at www.askkaren.gov; call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline and speak to a live representative at 1-888-674-6854, TTY: 1-800-256-7027; or type a question on our “Live Chat” site at http://askkaren.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/askkaren.cfg/php/enduser/chat.php. Visit www.foodsafety.gov for safety information on all types of foods.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Facility Goes Green

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest new Supervisor’s Office in Rhinelander, Wisc., was re-engineered with “green” features. The use of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding helped complete its restoration.  Here students from the USDA Forest Service’s Blackwell Job Corps Center help with the restoration on this 3 year project. Read more »

The True Spirit of the Holiday – A USDA Story from Kentucky

There is no better demonstration of the holiday spirit than when people give their time and resources to help those in need.

USDA employees are a shining example of how a small gesture can go a long way toward helping others. In rural communities across the Commonwealth, many of them worked diligently this holiday season to collect food donations and personal items for agencies that help those less fortunate.

In Grayson County, Kentucky, staff members from Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency partnered with the local conservation district to collect 2,800 pounds of non-perishable food items for Community Food Pantry as part of the annual “Harvest of the Heart” food drive.

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Donna Wilson, director of the Community Food Pantry, was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support and food.

He told me that the USDA drive is one of the food drives that they look forward to and depend on every year. He said “Our county is such a poor county, and our numbers have increased dramatically this year. We are feeding 1,000 families a month – more than 2,000 individuals. This drive was huge. They collected 2,800 pounds of food. Without their assistance, I don’t know where this food panty would be.”

Harvest of the Heart drive also worked with more than 20 churches across Grayson County, as well as CoreMark International, which supplied the collections bins used in the food drive.

All of the donated food collected by the USDA Service Center employees was given to Community Food Pantry. The food drive is held each year to help replenish the shelves at the food pantry, which needs donations year round to meet the growing demands of those needing assistance.

Rural Development employees in the Morehead, Kentucky, Area Office, also collected food as well as personal items to help those less fortunate this holiday season.

It has become an annual tradition for the small staff to collect food and other items for non-profit agencies that assist victims of domestic violence or those who are homeless.

This year, the staff collected food and personal items such as shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste for the Gateway Homeless Shelter in Morehead.

Morehead Area Office photo

Morehead Area Office photo

Area Assistant Brian Glover said each year during the holidays the staff chooses to collect money, personal items and food for people in need rather than exchange gifts among themselves.Those of us who work for Rural Development recognize how fortunate we are to work for an agency that has such a positive impact on rural communities. Each day, we see first-hand the ways in which our programs and services improve the quality of life for those who need them the most.

It’s heartwarming to see so many RD employees continue this support through community service — long after the workday ends.

Submitted by Katherine Belcher, Public Information Coordinator, Kentucky

USDA Rural Development Hosts Jobs and Economy Roundtable in Livingston, Montana

On December 18, USDA Rural Development hosted a Jobs and Economy Roundtable discussion in Livingston, Montana in Park County.  About 7,000 people live in Livingston, which has an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent.  The local economy was once dominated by the railroad and agriculture, but in recent years, because Yellowstone National Park is less than an hour away, tourism has become a growing business segment. Read more »

Arizona Jobs Roundtable, December 21, 2009 – Somerton, Arizona

Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

It was within that frame of mind that the Obama Administration brought its ‘Jobs Roundtable’ series to Somerton, Arizona.  The goal of the roundtable was to reach out to local leaders for their thoughts and ideas on how to create jobs, move the economy forward, and create rural wealth.

The roundtable, hosted by USDA Rural Development and Farm Service Agency, was comprised of a diverse group of community and employment advocates and leaders all looking to provide solution on how the Administration could stimulate job creation in their region.

Job forum roundtable Somerton, ArizonaIt wasn’t long before the 35 participants had a constructive dialogue going on how our Federal agencies could best promote job growth in rural Yuma County, the state’s hardest hit region of job loss. Paul Newman, Arizona Corporation Commissioner, spoke of the potential for green technologies. It turns out that the Yuma area has the largest area in the world of contiguous solar potential. State Senator Amanda Aguirre and State Representative Lynne Pancrazi emphasized the drastic cuts the State has taken in trying to mitigate a projected $2 billion deficient, noting that federal assistance in job creation is very important.

The discussion ranged from tapping into the green energy potential, taking a more regional approach to projects and jobs creation, and making changes to the Workforce Investment Act to add more flexibility and system building.

Among the other participants were bankers, city and county officials, representatives of the local community college and school districts, hospitals, food banks, and housing groups.

Somerton in heeding the advice of Oscar Wilde passed on some great advice and without a doubt, it will be of use to their community and to the nation.

USDA Communications Coordinator, Aaron Lavallee