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Posts tagged: Education

Feed Thy Neighbor: South LA Youth Use Neighborhood Gardens to Educate, Better Community Health

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, showing off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, shows off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens. Salako was recently accepted to Pitzer College after writing an essay about his experiences with this community food project.

It began with the desire of a group of South Los Angeles high school students to increase access to more effective nutrition education at their school.  They started small—a monthly guest speaker, bags of veggies, cutting boards, and nutrition education. Now, their efforts have blossomed and manifested into RootDownLA, a community food project operating in three South Los Angeles neighborhoods with the help of the youth participants, referred to as Cultivars.

As a recipient of a $226,705 Community Food Project grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), this youth-driven organization works closely with members of the community to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and provide access to more quality food. The major encouragement of all of RootDown LA’s activities is for people to choose to eat good food. Read more »

And the Winner of the Smokey Bear Poster Contest is…

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, standing with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, stands with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl. (Photo by Dominic Cumberland, U.S. Forest Service)

For 54 years, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc., have worked together to sponsor the National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the U.S.

This year’s grand prize winner is Audrey Morga, an 11-year old, and a fifth grader at St. Bernardine of Siena School in Woodland Hills, California.

“When I found out that I won, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming,” said Morga. Read more »

Bringing the Farm to the City: How a Local Land Grant University is Supporting a Different Kind of Agriculture

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce

Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce being grown at the 144 Acre Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation.

This year I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of urban agriculture operations. From California to Cleveland, the ability of individuals to realize the multidimensional benefits of agricultural production and leverage them in an urban context has been nothing short of amazing.

This past week I visited a University that is heavily involved in both the research and extension aspect of urban agriculture — right in the backyard of the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation is located about 20 minutes north of the school’s D.C. campus. Upon arrival I found everything from activists passionate about learning how to best provide their neighbors with fresh produce, to researchers developing improved hydroponics systems; and even students working with community organizations on rice varieties suitable to be grown in urban areas. Read more »

Transferring Dead Trees from Source of Wildfire Fuel to Biofuel

Mountain lake with pine beetle damaged forest

Researchers are harvesting beetle-killed trees in the Rocky Mountain region for use as feedstock for biofuel. (iStock image)

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.

Trees killed by bark beetles have, for years, been a source of fuel for forest fires.  Now, those very trees are being turned into biofuel and biobased products.

This vast bioenergy resource—approximately 46 million acres—requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns, and may have a highly favorable carbon balance compared other forestry feedstocks. The problem, however, is that beetle-killed biomass is typically located far from urban industrial centers in relatively inaccessible areas, which means transportation costs are a key barrier to widespread utilization of this vast resource. Read more »

Adding a Helping of Books to Nutritious Summer Meals

A boy reading a book with a man

Enrichment activities help keep children and teens engaged, while they receive a healthy meal or snack at USDA summer meals sites.

The following guest blog was submitted by Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to free and low-cost books to children in need. Many USDA summer meals sites provide not only healthy meals and snacks, but also offer physical activity and enrichment activities to keep children and teens engaged and coming back.  First Book serves up a helping of books and educational resources to support these meals sites while they provide healthy options when school is out for the summer.

By Kyle Zimmer, CEO of First Book

We all know that nutrition is closely tied to school performance.  Brains and bodies need healthy foods to nourish and nurture their development.  While schools play a critical role in providing free and reduced cost breakfasts and lunches during the school year, those needs can be even greater in the summer when children are out of school and families’ limited food budgets need to account for those extra meals. Fortunately, thanks to the federally-funded Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), healthy summer meals are available for children in low-income neighborhoods. We just have to work together to make sure families know about summer meals programs available in their community. Read more »

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Summit: How REE is Using New Strategies to Reach Even Newer Poultry Handlers

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan

(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.

During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”   

The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do.  The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »