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Online Nutrition Resources at Your Fingertips

At home, school, or work, consumers can use USDA’s free ChooseMyPlate.gov, an interactive website for creating a customized healthy dietary plan that includes required daily vitamins and minerals, and age- and gender-appropriate daily portions and calorie levels. Users can also tap tools called “Daily Food Plan,” “SuperTracker,” and “Food-a-Pedia.”

At home, school, or work, consumers can use USDA’s free ChooseMyPlate.gov, an interactive website for creating a customized healthy dietary plan that includes required daily vitamins and minerals, and age- and gender-appropriate daily portions and calorie levels. Users can also tap tools called “Daily Food Plan,” “SuperTracker,” and “Food-a-Pedia.”

Even if you’re not among the 68 percent of U.S. adults who are overweight or obese, many consumers are striving to get a leg up on their nutritional health. Some of the simplest government facts can inspire consumers to better nutrition.

U.S. nutrition experts issue “leading indicators” on the nation’s nutritional health. USDA’s national “What We Eat In America” survey data indicate that dietary fiber intakes among U.S. consumers average only 16 grams per day. The problem is that the daily Adequate Intake for fiber is set at 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men! Read more »

Going to Great Heights for Data and Atmospheric Monitoring

Carita Chan was excited to get to ride in a Sno-Cat for the first time. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Carita Chan was excited to get to ride in a Sno-Cat for the first time. U.S. Forest Service photo.

What lengths would you go to for the pursuit of science?

That’s a question I asked myself when I had the opportunity to participate in data collection at the Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site with John Frank and John Korfmacher, Electronics Engineer and Physical Scientist respectively, at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.

The Glacier Lakes Ecosystem Experiments Site, or GLEES, is located in the Snowy Range of the Medicine Bow Mountains, within the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming. The remote site’s 600 hectares (1,480 acres) are composed of a watershed located in mountainous terrain at 3,200 to 3,500 m (10,500 to 11,500 ft.) elevation. Read more »

Cover Crops: Agriculture’s Hero

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.

After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers. Read more »

The Greatest Good

I was asked recently what the Forest Service mission meant to me. There are three words that always come to mind any time I think about what we do … the greatest good.

Founder of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot said that where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question shall always be answered from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.

Our mission is varied and complex, but the concept of doing our best for the largest amount of people is much simpler. We will always strive to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Read more »

USDA Grant Improves Monitoring of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Other At-Risk Wildlife

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The distinctive “fitz-bew” of the Southwestern willow flycatchers is music to the ears of the partners of Wetland Dynamics, LLC, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently improved the ability to hear them. Wetland Dynamics received a $60,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS in 2014 to develop innovative technology for monitoring the endangered flycatcher and two other imperiled species in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

“What we’re doing is innovative,” said Jenny Nehring, a biologist and partner at Wetland Dynamics. “The technology we’re using has been around for quite some time. But with the partnership now forged with NRCS, we are able to expand and improve our innovative techniques that build upon existing tools, which will in turn help to better understand certain wildlife species and improve protection of them.” Read more »

New USDA Survey Examines Where We Shop for Groceries and How We Get There

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

We’ve long recognized that what we eat affects our health. But distances to stores offering healthy and affordable foods—as well as travel modes—can play a role in what gets purchased and consumed. Are the poor at a disadvantage when it comes to getting to a grocery store? How do shoppers—poor and not poor—travel to their main grocery store and how far do they travel to get there?

A new survey funded by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and Food and Nutrition Service is ideally suited to answer these questions. The National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) collected information from a national sample of 4,826 households between April 2012 and January 2013 about where they shop for food and other unique, comprehensive data about household food purchases and acquisitions. FoodAPS is unique because it sampled a relatively large number of households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as nonparticipant households from three income levels. Read more »