We left the cool warehouse with sticky shoes and smelling of spoiled bananas, but also with a warm feeling for having helped the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas ensure healthy, fresh food for their clients. Hundreds of cases of bananas had been donated, but when food bank staff checked the produce it was too spoiled to be used. However, the sturdy produce boxes could be salvaged for further use, so 32 USDA volunteers from the Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Office and USDA Risk Management Agency rolled up their sleeves to empty and then reassemble the boxes. This was a great opportunity for us to work together with other USDA employees and see the food bank in operation first hand. The project was part of the January 12th USDA National Day of Service honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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Puerto Rico’s agriculture has been steadily declining and imports total 85 percent of the food consumed on the island. Additionally, almost all of the $11 million per year that USDA purchases for use in Puerto Rico’s school meals are purchased from companies in the continental United States. What’s more, each year the island’s School Food Authority purchases about $80 million in food to be served in school. We saw these as opportunities for local farmers and decided to do something about it.
The Market Expansion Conference, held June 23-24 in San Juan, teamed seven U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies and other Commonwealth and federal partners to show over 250 farmers how to sell food to local schools, expand their businesses and increase their participation in USDA programs. Puerto Rico’s milk farmers, cattle ranchers, pineapple growers and many others eagerly listened to USDA experts explain grading and licensing, and provide information in the areas of funding and procurement. Read more »
A few years ago, Iris Estes’ shyness served her well. After all, it didn’t matter to her because she didn’t have to give speeches or talk to groups.
Then Estes landed a job on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Central Arizona as a customer relations specialist. That was the easy part. Her new boss split her duties, adding conservation education coordinator as part of her work. That meant developing and gaining support for the forest’s first formal conservation education program, especially programs for children. Read more »
More than 220 USDA employees met Thursday at the Varsity Theatre in Davis, Calif. to share their thoughts during the first listening session designed to help implement a cultural transformation within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Members of the USDA Cultural Transformation Task Force were present to hear ideas and to ensure this effort results in a more diverse, inclusive and high performance organization. Read more »