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USDA employees contributing to United We Serve initiative

The Obama administration has called on Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life to work to improve their communities as part of the United We Serve project. Here at USDA, many of our more than 100,000 employees are doing their part. They are driven to serve, and proud to identify ways to use their skills to support their own communities.

Take a look at the great work two USDA employees are doing:

People’s Garden—Tom (Goodhue, MN)

Tom works at the Goodhue, Minnesota USDA Service Center. During his lunch break, he gets his hands in the soil of the vegetable garden of their own People’s Garden. He often works alongside Kate, an employee of the local Soil and Water Conservation District, and others. So far, they have harvested 55 pounds of produce, including beets, green beans, yellow beans, squash, carrots, onions, carrots, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes.

All of this nutritious food has been donated to 2 local food shelves, helping alleviate hunger in their community. Growing food in gardens also lowers the reliance on transporting food over long distances, which conserves energy.

Tom in his garden at the Goodhue, MN USDA Service Center

Serving in a State Park—Larry (St. Louis, MO)

Larry and his wife are both members of the Missouri Back Country Horsemen Association. With their fellow Association members, they have devoted countless hours to trail improvements and trail monitoring, and have also been called upon to aid park rangers in locating lost hikers or fallen riders. Their bow saws, determination, and perspiration ensure that the trails through this beautiful land remain clean, clear and useable by all.

Missouri Back Country Horsemen Association members on horseback

FSIS launches YouTube channel

Be Food Safe From USDA Trademark LogoAlthough USDA has its own page on YouTube, we’re still looking to find as many ways to get public information out as possible. That’s why the Food Safety and Inspection Service is online with a YouTube page of its own at

You’ll be able to find video in English, Spanish and American Sign Language about all kinds of food safety issues — how to prepare and store food, for example, or what to do with food after a natural disaster.

This is just one more part of the bigger effort to ensure Americans are eating safe food. Keep checking out the new page frequently as we upload important food safety messages for consumers and producers.

Check out Recovery Act stories from across the nation

Across the country, USDA is providing billions of dollars in project funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or the “Recovery Act”). By going to the USDA Recovery site, you can visit your state blog to read about some of these projects, and the ways in which they’re helping communities.

But we want to hear stories from you as well. On the USDA Recovery page, you can Tell Your Story — what’s working in your community? What isn’t? How have the Recovery efforts impacted your life?

Deputy Secretary Merrigan visits Washington food bank

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited the Capital Area Food Bank in northeast Washington this morning, to help highlight the President’s United We Serve initiative and encourage Americans to serve their communities.

She also spoke directly to USDA employees, who are encouraged to participate in the Feds Feed Families program through August by bringing food to work:

Merrigan, joined by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, reiterated the President’s pledge to end childhood hunger by 2015 — and the importance of the nation’s food banks in that effort. At the same time, she noted, summer is often the hardest time for food banks to gather the resources they need to help the community.

This summer, that’s one problem the Obama Administration is hoping to address as it kicks off the United We Serve program. When people find a local project, whether it’s helping to gather food for a food bank, building a family a home, or working to clean up a park, everyone benefits. And although the hurdles are sometimes high, the Deputy Secretary and other attendees’ summer Hawaiian shirts served as a reminder that volunteering this summer, with friends, family and neighbors, can be fun at the same time.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan meets with staff at the Capitol Area Food Bank.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan meets with staff at the Capitol Area Food Bank.

USDA filmmaker David Black describes Afghanistan experiences

USDA filmmaker David Black traveled this spring to Afghanistan, where he produced a 17-minute film on the efforts of USDA agriculture advisors working in Afghanistan as part of intergovernmental Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

While he was away, he kept a personal journal about his experiences on the ground in Afghanistan. This excerpt is from April 28, 2009: Read more »

Vilsack joins in urban tour event in Philadelphia

Secretary Vilsack has been busy touring the country with other members of the Obama cabinet as part of the Rural Tour — but yesterday, he traveled to Philadelphia to give a few words in an urban setting as well. Read more »