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A Big Day for Big Rapids (and Walkerville and Hesperia) Michigan

Last Wednesday the weather was about as good as anyone has reason to expect for March in Michigan, which was a good thing as we had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of new projects to celebrate.

The first stop was Walkerville, a small town in Oceana County.   We were there to commemorate the grand opening of the elementary school’s new playground.   Thanks to a $35,000 child care grant and the energetic support of the local community, Walkerville’s children went from an unsafe, bleak play area to one that is safe and inviting. Our state director, James J. Turner, found the kids were already enjoying the new equipment and while they clapped at all the appropriate times during the ceremony, they sent up their biggest cheer when the grownups got out of the way and let them get back to the business of playing.

State Director for Michigan James Turner speaks before the new playground at Walkerville

From Walkerville we went to the Hesperia Public Schools complex to see the result of a $50,000 grant for playground equipment. We were greeted by members of the local school board, representatives from both of Michigan’s United States Senators (Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow), the local Congressman (Peter Hoekstra) and state Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom.

It was then time for us to move on to Big Rapids, where The Mecosta County Medical Center has received two $50,000 grants for two digital mammography machines, one of which was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Finally, we viewed a new fire truck for the City of Big Rapids. USDA Rural Development provided a $562,000 loan and a $100,000 grant for the purchase of the new aerial ladder truck. Purchased through Front Line Services, Inc. in Freeland, the chassis was built by Spartan Motors in Charlotte and the generator was made by Smart Power in Reed City (Michigan). Next to the ladder truck, the city parked other emergency vehicles that Rural Development helped purchase as a fitting tribute to our partnership.

The new Big Rapids fire truck funded through USDA Rural Development grants and loans.

The new Big Rapids fire truck funded through USDA Rural Development grants and loans.

All told it was a great day to be out in Rural Michigan.

Written by Alec Lloyd, Public Information Coordinator, USDA Rural Development, Michigan

RD Administrator Meets with Librarians to Promote USDA’s Library Initiative

Tammye Treviño, USDA Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities Administrator sponsored Librarian Forum at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, earlier this month.

Eighty nine librarians participated in the activity. Most of them work for the State & Municipal government, others for non-profit & faith based organizations. They all agreed that most of the libraries in Puerto Rico are in need of new equipments, books, and computers. In some cases the construction of a new library will be the best alternative.

Ms. Treviño explained the Library Initiative Program has a $100 million budget for the nation. She urged the librarians to submit their proposal before June 30, 2010. The reason is that if one state will not use the funds, other states could have access to them.

The meeting was attended by José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico and Nereida Rodríguez, Community Program Director. The diversity of issues discussed was amazing and each librarian had a success story to tell. The activity was covered by El Nuevo Día Newspaper.

Written by Miguel A. Ramírez Public Affairs Coordinator USDA Rural Development, Puerto Rico

Recognizing the Work of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq

In Washington, DC today, Farm and Foreign Agricultural Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter accepted an American flag that flew above the U. S. Regional Embassy Office at Al Hillah, Iraq in recognition of USDA employees’ contributions on Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Iraq. Read more »

Using Emerging Media at USDA to Improve Food Safety

Using social media and other new digital technologies to reach the public with critical food safety messages is a key mandate of the year-old President’s Food Safety Working Group. As demonstrated at a panel at USDA’s Food Safety Education Conference in Atlanta, the government is responding vigorously to the charge.
Representatives of the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USDA spoke about how emerging digital and social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs are being used to educate the public about food safety.

“Using social media helps us reach many more people than we can using only conventional channels,” USDA Director of New Media Amanda Eamich told attendees at a panel titled “Using Social Media.” “Social media lets us multiply our reach.”

The panelists described social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a public “conversation” among users. The government can better serve the public by listening to and participating in that conversation, Eamich said. USDA uses the Twitter profile @usdafoodsafety to send recall and food safety messages to more than 25,000 followers.

In a recent campaign, USDA sent out Tweets during the run-up to the Super Bowl about preparing buffet and party food safely. By using a tag followed by Twitterers discussing the Super Bowl, “We were able to remind people to cook their burgers to 160 degrees,  as part of their existing conversations about the game,” she said.

Part of the mandate of the Food Safety Working Group was to update into a “one-stop shop” for consumer information on food safety. The three agencies have collaborated to create a vibrant consumer-friendly site that employs Twitter and a blog.

The panel listed a wide variety of digital technologies now being used to distribute food safety messages to diverse audiences:

  • “e-cards”—colorful e-mail greetings that include a variety of public health messages
  • Facebook pages
  • YouTube videos
  • podcasts
  • Web pages optimized for mobile phones
  • Text messaging services and e-mail alerts
  • Widgets that allow people to get live product recall information sent directly to their desktops or to their own web pages
  • Click here for links to all USDA new media. You can follow @USDAgov on Twitter for all Department information. USDA’s food safety Twitter feed is @usdafoodsafety.

    By Craig Stoltz, Web Director, Food Safety and Inspection Service

    Deputy Secretary Merrigan Joins Rep. Holt and NJ Farmers on Capitol Hill

    Today Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt and dozens of farmers from across central New Jersey as part of the Congressman’s Agriculture and Nutrition Policy Day.  The Deputy Secretary spoke to a diverse group of farmers about USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative and the Department’s newest efforts to promote farm to school programs across the country.  After an informative presentation from the OneTray foundation, Congressman Holt kicked off the day’s activities with an enthusiastic welcome, acknowledging the real stars of the show, the men and women in the audience who work the land every day. Read more »

    At Food Safety Conference, Safe School Lunches Named a Top Priority

    USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton spoke to conference attendees at the Food Safety Education Conference in Atlanta. She described the Department’s mission to serve safe and nutritious school meals and snacks to the more than 11 million children who eat school breakfast every day and over 31 million eat school lunch.

    “The fact that so many lives are touched by our programs is a constant reminder that we must continue to emphasize food safety,” said Thornton. Read more »