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USDA to Sponsor Web-Based Nutrition Gaming Contest in Support of the President’s Open Government Initiative

Today we announced the Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge, which supports the President’s Open Government Initiative by holding a national contest that will promote healthier dietary habits among children.

“The Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge highlights the Obama Administration’s commitment to combating childhood obesity and improving the nutritional health of America’s youth,” said Vilsack. “We are excited to spur innovation by making it easier for high-tech companies and individuals to identify collaborative, entrepreneurial opportunities. Those who participate in this challenge will be important partners in helping our kids make smarter choices about the foods they eat.”

USDA released a dataset with 1,000 of the most common food items as well as open source codes from USDA nutrition resources to enable development of a Web-based learning application that incorporates the USDA-generated dataset. This challenge is open to entrepreneurs, software developers and students to design a creative and educational game targeted to kids, especially “tweens”, aged 9-12. The dataset is available to the public on Data.gov and MyPyramid.gov.

The Web-based games will help motivate kids to learn about healthy dietary habits and the importance of eating more nutritional foods. Using the foods dataset, the game should be centered on educational messages that emphasize one or more key nutrition concepts from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid Food Guidance System.

The FNCS Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion will begin accepting fully developed Web-based games in the spring of 2010 that will be judged by a panel of public and private sector nutrition and gaming experts. The Popular Choice winner will be selected based on public votes, so stay tuned for more information.

Additional details will be posted at MyPyramid.gov as they are available. The dataset containing more than 1,000 commonly eaten foods and the open source code used for MyFood-a-pedia and the MyPyramid Menu Planner are available on the Website.

For examples of USDA-developed nutrition games and resources, visit the MyPyramid Blast Off Game, My Pyramid Menu Planner, and MyFood-a-pedia. For detailed information about the Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge, go to MyPyramid.gov.

Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager Addresses New England Housing Network Annual Conference

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager was among those attending the New England Housing Network Annual Conference last Friday in Needham, Mass., The Under Secretary joined a panel of Obama Administration officials who spoke about opportunities for working with the administration and Congress.  Panelists included Sandra Henriquez, HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing; Barbara Sard, Senior Advisor for Rental Assistance, HUD; and William Apgar, Senior Advisor for Mortgage Finance, HUD.  The panel was moderated by the Massachusetts president of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, Vincent O’Donnell.

Under Secretary Tonsager listed seven key priorities USDA Rural Development intends to focus on in order to stimulate America’s rural economy. They include: Community Development; Regional Development; Broadband Infrastructure Development; Regional Food Systems; Renewable Energy/Energy Independence; Capital Delivery and Strategic Partnerships.

The panel moderator, who also serves as Vice President of the Affordable Housing Preservation Initiative, said that having the Under Secretary at the conference was a testament to the Obama Administrations’ commitment to providing affordable housing regionally and nationally.  Barbara Fields, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) told Under Secretary Tonsager: “seeing you here is almost as good as watching New York’s Derek Jeter shag balls from Boston’s Big Papi!”* Information about USDA Rural Development’s housing programs is available here.

(*Quite the compliment from a Red Sox fan!)

Vincent O’Donnell, President of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association/Vice President of Affordable Housing Preservation Initiative; D. Tonsager; Joseph Belden, Deputy Executive Director of Housing Assistance Council

By, USDA Rural Development State Director Jay Healy. Mass., R.I., Conn.

USDA’s Forest Service Provides 2009 Capitol Christmas Tree to Be Lit Today

As we approach the end of the year, millions of Americans are counting their blessings and many are bringing Christmas trees into their homes to celebrate the season.  At USDA, the Forest Service helps with the nation’s holiday traditions by providing a tree to be displayed as the Capitol Christmas Tree.  This year’s tree, a 65-feet tall Blue spruce, will be will be officially lit today at 5:00 PM EST by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Kaitlyn Ferenick, a 7th grade student from Arizona. Read more »

USDA Forest Service Employee One of Four Finalists for President’s SAVE AWARD

Earlier this year, the President launched the SAVE Award – a program that offers every federal employee to chance to submit their ideas for how government can save money and perform better.  In just a few weeks, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received over 38,000 submissions, many of which will be implemented in the coming months.  Now for a twist, the “final four” SAVE Award ideas were selected as finalists and will be voted on beginning today.  Voting is open to federal employees as well as the general public. Watch President Obama’s open call for votes here. Read more »

Groundbreaking Event Held to Celebrate
 Winterport, Maine Water District Recovery Act Upgrades

Despite the chilly air and light frost, the atmosphere at the Groundbreaking Ceremony I attended last month for the Winterport Water District was warm as partners greeted one another and remarked on the terrific project they were about to break ground upon. Read more »

Red Cloud Indian School Uses Recovery Act Funds to Spark Advancement

The Red Cloud Indian School is located about five miles north of Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Shannon County are often listed as being among the poorest areas in this Nation.  Within this Third World environment the school provides a safe learning environment for Native American students.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February will help provide a much-needed economic boost to this rural area.  Recently, I joined Area Director Tim Potts to present the School with federal funds totaling $941,000. The money will be used to provide teacher housing, a new heating and cooling system and a sewer lift station at the school. The money is a combination of Recovery Act funds and dollars from USDA Rural Development’s standard allocation to South Dakota. Read more »