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USDA Invests Millions to Promote Family Nutrition and Encourage Children to Make Healthy Food Choices

President Obama and Secretary Vilsack have made providing our children with healthier, more nutritious meals a top priority. Good nutrition is not only vital to the long-term health of children; it is an integral part of improving academic performance, and ensuring that future generations will be competitive in a global economy.

That is why Secretary Vilsack is committed to the President’s goal of investing $10 billion over 10 years to improve the Child Nutrition Programs to improve access, and to enhance the quality of the meals and the health of the whole school environment.  It is why USDA is working to implement the Institute of Medicine’s suggestions to upgrade school meal requirements to enhance nutritional value.  And we are also working to eliminate barriers that keep eligible families from enrolling in our nutrition programs.

Secretary Vilsack also joined Michelle Obama at the White House to re-launch the HealthierUS School Challenge, expanding it to include middle school and high school students. The Challenge will motivate schools to serve healthier meals, conduct nutrition education and promote physical activity. To further promote the importance of staying active, the USDA signed a partnership with the NFL and the National Dairy Council to support the “Fuel Up and Play 60” campaign.

The Agriculture Marketing Service and Food Nutrition Service also worked together to provide fresh-cut apple products via the National School Lunch Program. Five states, including California and New York, have already ordered millions of pounds of apples. By December 2010, school districts in 10 states will be serving fresh-cut apples. The success of the program has allowed AMS to expand their fresh-cut offers to include carrots.

USDA’s nutrition assistance programs touch 1 in 5 Americans each year.  Currently more than 37 million Americans receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help them purchase nutritious food, which also helps stimulate the economy by supporting grocery stores, truck drivers, and American farmers.  In fact, every $1 spent on SNAP benefits generates over $1.84 in economic activity.

More than 13 million people eligible for SNAP benefits don’t participate. Even a small increase in the number of Americans participating in the Program will generate billions of dollars in economic activity while providing children with safe, nutritious food. If you or someone you know may be eligible for SNAP, ask them to apply online on the SNAP Application website.

In 2009, USDA made tremendous headway in providing families, children, and schools the choice to eat healthier. In the coming months and years, we look forward to continuing to help Americans lead healthy, prosperous lives.

Dozens Turn Out to Share Ideas on Stimulating the Economy and Creating Jobs in Kentucky

Despite unexpected snowfall and cold temperatures, more than 50 people participated in a forum on jobs creation in Kentucky on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday. Read more »

USDA Led Forum Works to Create a Blueprint for Job Creation in Wisconsin

Nearly 80 people gathered at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, Wis. to participate in the Forum for the Future . . . Pathways to Wisconsin Job Creation event.

The job forum, co-hosted by USDA Rural Development, Chippewa Valley Technical College and USDA Farm Service Agency, primarily focused on generating ideas and creating a blueprint to help initiate job growth in Wisconsin.

Panelists and attendees, together, explored ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses; creating jobs by rebuilding  and improving infrastructure; supporting job growth among small businesses; preparing workers for today’s job market; and the sustainability of Wisconsin jobs, specifically in the energy sector.

“USDA Rural Development is committed to facilitating sustainable job growth in Wisconsin with partners like Chippewa Valley Technical College; and with all the wonderful ideas produced by this forum, I believe we’re off to a good start,” said Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development State Director.  “The Federal Government is working diligently to create jobs and having input from community leaders is vital to the proceeding steps we take.”

Panelists at the Wisconsin job forum Include:

Stan Gruszynski, State Director, USDA Rural Development as the Moderator; Bruce Barker, President, Chippewa Valley Technical College; Brad Pfaff, State Director, Farm Service Agency; Steve Blodgett, District Director, WI Department of Workforce Development; Tom Lyon, Senior Policy Advisor, WI Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection; Greg Nycz, Executive Director, Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc.; Mary Patoka, Executive Director, CAP Services; John Rosenow, Wisconsin Dairyman and Small Business Owner; Scott Schultz, Executive Director, Wisconsin Farmers Union; Mike Stifter, Director of Facilities, UW River Falls Sustainability Institute; and Rick Terrien, Executive Director, Iowa County Economic Development Corporation.

Attendees of the job forum, from feedback gathered almost unanimously, agreed that the event was informational and will ultimately help to generate a focus on future job creation for the state of Wisconsin. Numerous positive comments, ideas, and suggestions were received.

Critical elements for Wisconsin’s rural economy and job market, according to the attendees are; next generation interest and retention in rural areas and in agriculture, taking advantage of new technologies, better paying jobs, increased education and training, and knowledge of financial resources offered by local, state and federal agencies.  Additional concerns include access to needed healthcare and the availability of credit lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The recommendations and information from the forum will be compiled into a formal report and submitted to the White House; as well as sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Wisconsin Congressional and Senatorial Representatives, and attendees.

Job forum Wisonsin

Stan Gruszynski, USDA Rural Development State Director, addresses the attendees at the job forum held at Chippewa Valley Technical College Gateway Campus in Eau Claire Tuesday.

Job forum Wisconsin

Tom Lyon, left, Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, speaks with Bruce Barker and Diane Pavelski of Chippewa Valley Technical College before the job forum started Tuesday morning.

Submitted by: Kelly Edwards, Wisconsin Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development

To view a recording of the Eau Claire jobs forum go to: http://www.cvtc.edu/videos/asx/events/usda-forum.asx

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth

Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans Work to Overcome Challenges

DOHA, Qatar – Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States met in Doha, Qatar, last week to commence the first Agricultural Trilateral meetings among the nations. The meetings focused on three areas: improving food security, water management, and trade corridors in the Central Asia region. All three areas, said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Burnham Philbrook, will help to increase economic opportunities for millions of Afghans and Pakistanis.

“I think we can all agree that meetings are nice, but progress is preferable,” said Philbrook. “We have come together here because we are serious about improving economic opportunities for Afghans and Pakistanis. And we recognize the historic nature of our responsibilities and seizing this opportunity while it lasts.”

The Agricultural Trilateral is meant to build relationships between Afghans and Pakistanis, and lead to plans that address improvements to each nation’s agricultural economy.

Nearly 50 representatives from the three countries participated in working sessions to develop action plans in each of the three areas. The action plans will address:

  • agriculture trade corridors along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate trans-border trade;
  • strengthening food security by reducing post-harvest loss and collaborating on research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products;
  • and improving water and watershed management and irrigation methods and rehabilitate watersheds to increase crop yields and create jobs.

Launched in May as part of President Barack Obama’s broader new strategy on global food security, the meetings are an important step toward improving some of the root causes of economic instability in the region as a whole. Plans will look at mitigating hunger, addressing job creation, water issues, and examining how to increase agricultural productivity and strengthen markets for the benefit of the region. When plans are complete, USDA will seek to complement strategies by offering collaborative opportunities in research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products.

“They [the United States] can facilitate our initiative, but our initiative has to be our initiative,” said Malik Zahoor Ahmad, Director General of Pakistan’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

“Only by agricultural reform can farm families climb out of poverty,” said Saleem Kunduzi, Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, “… can farmers stop planting narcotics … can more than a million young men throw away their guns and take up peaceful, honest, paying jobs. … Afghanistan and Pakistan need each other in solving problems.”

Deputy Undersecretary Philbrook

Deputy Under Secretary Philbrook delivers opening remarks at the first plenary meeting of the Agricultural Trilateral Working Groups.

Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

Left to Right - US, Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

USDA Reporting to You, and Looking Ahead

Today, the White House launched an interactive online feature with video reports from members of President Obama’s Cabinet.  In his message, Secretary Vilsack addresses the USDA’s accomplishments from 2009, and also talks about how we plan to make life better Americans in the year ahead. To see the Secretary’s statement, click here.

This week, we will be writing about the progress we have made to support agricultural producers, drive rural development, provide nutritious food for children, and much more.

Business Owners, Residents, Community Leaders Share Ideas on Creating Jobs in Greenville, South Carolina

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored a Presidential Roundtable Forum on job creation for South Carolina at the Greenville County Library in Greenville yesterday, bringing together community leaders to brainstorm solutions to high unemployment numbers and the impact on rural areas.

“This forum provides an opportunity to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities,” said Vernita F. Dore, state director of USDA Rural Development in South Carolina.  “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local communities. We need the best ideas to share with the Obama Administration.”

The roundtable included business owners, residents, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, educators and others interested in job creation and economic stability.

Dore said, “This is the fourth job forum that Rural Development has held in South Carolina and what we are finding is that people are very responsive and welcome the opportunity to take an active part in their future and the future of South Carolina by brainstorming together to come up with solutions. The rate of unemployment in South Carolina is currently 12.6 percent. That is unacceptable. The primary purpose of these forums is to find ways to put South Carolinians back to work.

“Furthermore,” Dore continued, “We are here, not only to listen to the leaders of rural communities and their ideas, but also to remind them that Rural Development has the resources to meet the needs of their communities.”

The Forum was sponsored by USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

Submitted by Marlous Black, South Carolina Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth