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Deputy Secretary Merrigan Brings ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ College Tour to Utah State University

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was at Utah State University yesterday, for a presentation to local leaders and students interested in food and agricultural policy. Attendees filled the auditorium to capacity with standing room only in the aisles to hear about what USDA is doing to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers. Read more »

New Green Curriculum Unveiled for USDA Forest Service Job Corps Conservation Centers

Today I am fortunate to attend an event in Nampa, Idaho, with Congressman Walt Minnick to celebrate Secretary’s Vilsack’s announcement of a new green curriculum for the USDA Forest Service’s 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, located in 18 states around the country.  I will be able to see first-hand how USDA’s Job Corps Centers’ curriculum is preparing disadvantaged young people for careers that will be good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for them!

The USDA Forest Service has operated Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers for 45 years, and I am eager to see how the new focus on green jobs training for today’s economy can work for our students. The new green curriculum offered at the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers provides training in growing trades such as:

Carpentry and construction: Students learn the principles of green construction, as well as how to build and retrofit buildings to achieve green building-certification.

Electrical: Students are learning to re-wire buildings and install smart meters, low-voltage thermostats, and energy-efficient appliances.

Culinary arts: Culinary students learn to incorporate fresh, organic, locally-grown produce into menus, decreasing the miles food has to travel and lowering carbon output.

Medical trades: Students learn the importance of nutrition and healthy, active lifestyles. Graduates will be part of a health care system that will help Americans live longer, healthier lives.

Natural resources: Jobs in natural resource trades will be key in forest restoration work that will ensure a healthy environment and clean, abundant water for communities throughout the nation.

Job Corps Centers provide free education and training and are located throughout the country. For eligible youth at least 16 years of age, Job Corps provides the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life. To learn more visit our recruiting Website.

Check back soon for photos and stories from the event!

By Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment

Recovery Act, Helping Put Food on The Table, Creating Jobs and Improving Access to Medical Care

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City today, where she took a tour of the facility and helped assemble meal packets with USDA foods.  Merrigan highlighted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the ARRA funding that Utah Food Bank received in 2009 and 2010.

The Recovery Act supported the nation’s food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens, by increasing funding to USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

TEFAP helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.  USDA makes food available to State governments, which distributes it to their emergency feeding network and their affiliates, like Utah Food Bank.

Later in the day, Merrigan toured the construction site of a community health center in Logan, that will be an integral part of the health care network in Utah’s Cache Valley.  When it opens this summer, the Cache Valley Community Health Center will offer primary and urgent medical care, behavioral health services, dental care and a pharmacy.

The financing for this project was made available by Recovery Act funds through USDA’s Rural Development Community Facility (CF) program in the amount of a $2,100,000 loan.

Written by Orrin Evans, USDA Office of Communications

More information about USDA’s Recovery Act efforts is available at  Log on to USDA’s YouTube channel to view additional ARRA project highlights, videos are available at – g/c/2A468F5AC6EBCED7

Mississippi Hosts A Recovery Act Broadband Workshop-Five Counties to Receive Broadband Service

With much of Mississippi located in rural areas and many of those rural areas lacking broadband access, it should be no surprise when USDA Rural Development’s Mississippi team chose to take extra initiative to make sure that Mississippi’s rural cities and counties take full advantage of the opportunities presented under the Recovery Act’s broadband funding.

And that is exactly what Mississippi’s State Director Trina N. George did when she hosted a Outreach and Training Workshop, held in Jackson on Tuesday, February 23rd for Mississippi applicants for USDA Rural Development Broadband funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“For rural Mississippi to get its fair share of broadband funds,” said State Director George, “we feel we must submit competitive and complete applications. This workshop was to help us achieve that goal.”

Earlier today, USDA announced that the Bay Springs Telephone Co.’s Bay Springs Broadband Initiatives Project would receive a $4.3 million loan and $4.1 million grant. The funding will expand advanced DSL broadband services to unserved and underserved areas within five counties Jasper, Jones, Rankin, Scott, and Smith.

The workshop was modeled after the outstanding ARRA broadband workshops that have been held across the country hosted jointly by USDA Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Like those workshops, the Jackson event spotlighted USDA broadband funds available through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).

The workshop was a huge hit and underscored State Director George’s concentration on outreach in promoting USDA Rural Development programs and opportunities for rural Mississippi. The workshop was also attended by staff members for a number of Mississippi’s U.S. Congressional delegation, one of whom (a staff member for a U.S. Senator) remarked as she was leaving: “This event today was just great, and so informative. It is precisely what we need to get the word out about this opportunity. It is great to see the agency doing this kind of outreach event, because it will really help a lot of Mississippians.”

“USDA Rural Development has too many good programs to just keep them to ourselves,” said State Director George. “The more we spread the word, the more rural Mississippians will benefit. And thus, our work will always begin with outreach, including such events as this one. Regarding Recovery Act opportunities, this outreach is doubly important, as that window of opportunity will close later this year.”

State Director George would also like to commend her staff,  including Rural Community Programs Director Bettye Oliver, and Linda Stovall, Janis Nolan, Nicole Barnes, Patricia McDowell, and Nita Stringer on the program staff, for their professional work in putting the workshop together.

From left: Randy Jenkins, ARRA General Field Accountant with USDA RD in Washington, DC; USDA RD Mississippi State Director Trina N. George; and David J. Villano, USDA Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs.
From left to right: Randy Jenkins, ARRA General Field Accountant with USDA RD in Washington, DC; USDA RD Mississippi State Director Trina N. George; and David J. Villano, USDA Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs.

Over 50 potential applicants came to Jackson, MS to hear from the experts about the application process for Recovery Act broadband funds.Over 50 potential applicants came to Jackson, MS to hear from the experts about the application process for Recovery Act broadband funds.

Written by Ken Stribling, USDA Rural Development-Mississippi

National Nutrition Month “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating”

With 3,000 employees and visitors stopping by the U.S. Department of Agriculture cafeterias on a  daily basis, I was pleased to kick off the annual  National Nutrition Month at the  South Building Cafeteria at the USDA  headquarters here in Washington today.  I was joined by fellow USDA employees to introduce the 2010 theme “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating.”   This year’s event and theme are special to us because Secretary Vilsack and I have made nutrition and healthy living a top priority at USDA through the “Know Your Farmer,  Know Your Food” initiative. Read more »

Our Challenge to America: Let’s Move! and Double the Number of HealtherUS Schools

By Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

The timing of the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) annual legislative action conference couldn’t have been better as USDA and the Obama Administration continue working on advancing the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.  I really appreciated the opportunity to address the national organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals who are on the front lines of the effort to improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children.

Last month, SNA announced their support for First Lady Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative and agreed to a number of key steps to further improve the nutritional quality of school meals and advance nutrition education for America’s students.  SNA is an important partner in our efforts to improve the health of our children and reduce childhood hunger throughout the country.

SNA knows that the answer to improving child nutrition and combating obesity lies in our ability to work together and bring everyone on board this effort.  I am pleased that I could speak with them about joining me as I challenged parents, educators, and community leaders to double the number of HealthierUS Schools across the country in the next year. All have us have a stake in working together to improve the health and nutrition of our children and in turn the future of our nation.

Earlier in the week, First Lady Michelle Obama also attended the SNA conference to talk about her Let’s Move! initiative and its focus on raising a generation of kids to be healthy adults. The proposed enhancements to the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act that the Obama Administration put forward form the legislative centerpiece of the First Lady’s campaign and our efforts to ensure the health of our youngsters.

We are encouraged by the leadership that the School Nutrition Association and others have demonstrated. Looking forward we are excited to work with SNA and other organizations to encourage America’s families to get involved in school nutrition programs and promote physical activity and healthy eating at home.

This post was originally featured on the Let’s Move! Blog.