USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.
Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies. On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.
As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »
From record droughts in Kansas to deadly wildfires in California, the United States is feeling the effects of climate change. These same conditions have a dire impact across the developing world, especially for poor, rural smallholder farmers whose very lives are threatened every time the rains arrive late, the floods rush in, or the temperature soars.
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach nine billion people. Feeding them will require at least a 60 percent increase in agricultural production. There is no greater challenge to meeting this need than climate change. It poses a range of unprecedented threats to the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people and to the very planet that sustains us. In order to ensure that hundreds of millions of people are not born into a debilitating cycle of under-nutrition and hunger, we must address the urgent threat that climate change poses. Read more »
This year has been an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anyplace. Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather event, including wildfires in California, extreme cold and snow through the Midwest and East, and destructive tornadoes in the South and Central Plains.
All of these events resulted in the loss of power for hundreds of thousands, and without power comes food safety challenges. The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this. Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »
FoodCorps, an AmeriCorps program, has built more than 400 school gardens in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Photo by Robyn Wardell.
As AmeriCorps celebrates its 20th anniversary, USDA salutes the deep relationship we’ve had with these remarkable volunteers and service members. From engaging in critical natural conservation efforts to helping kids learn more about nutrition and gardening to working directly with local organizations in communities enduring chronic poverty, USDA is proud to be an AmeriCorps partner.
AmeriCorps service crews are working side by side with the Forest Service to protect public lands and fight fires. For instance, a recently announced $3.8 million partnership between AmeriCorps and the USDA’s Forest Service and over 100 other organizations participating in the 21st Century Conservation Corps, creates service opportunities for 300 new AmeriCorps members. Through this opportunity, military veterans and youth restore our treasured public lands by rebuilding trails, managing forests and rehabilitating campsites for generations to enjoy. These service members are also doing critical wildfire management activities like tree thinning, prescribed burns and hazardous fuel control. Meanwhile, in northwest California, the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is restoring coastal watersheds from San Francisco to the Oregon border. This effort, a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt State University, and other members of the fisheries, watershed and science community, has been going strong for twenty years. Read more »
Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry
Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California. Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with school gardening, and how gardening helps to transform the food culture among students who were previously unaware of the origins of food. His district is making great strides in improving the school nutrition environment, thanks in part to support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By: Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District
The majority of the more than 1,000 students that attend Durfee School—part of El Monte School District, east of Los Angeles, California—have lived their entire lives in urban neighborhoods without access to farms or fields. It’s ironic that our school is named after James R. Durfee, a rancher and farmer who grew vegetables, grain, walnuts, and fruit. But until several years ago, Durfee students didn’t know where food came from, aside from the supermarket or the corner store.
When we joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and decided to improve the healthfulness of the food we serve to our students, we started by getting our hands dirty. As the director of nutrition services for El Monte School District I knew that kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process and learn why it is important. I invited local farmers to school to plant seedlings with the students. Once kids saw how broccoli or red cabbage grows, you can bet they wanted to taste them both in the garden and in the cafeteria. Read more »
Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)
Lee Roeser was born to be a mule packer. At a very early age, he learned the craft from his parents who ran a mule pack station in Mammoth Lakes, California. At age 6, he was already helping with the family business. By age 13, he began working as a packer; and at 16, he was hauling explosives, gear and tools for the public, the Forest Service and other government agencies, and mining and movie production companies.
“You must be passionate for the well-being of the animals,” said Roeser, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service on Inyo National Forest, home of one of the Pack Stock Centers of Excellence. “I do it for that and my love of the mountains and opportunity to continue to learn.” Read more »