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Posts tagged: ERS

School Breakfast Program Provides Increasing Number of Meals

Average Daily School Breakfast Participants, 1975-2014 chart

ERS’s Charts of Note series, like the above, provides daily snapshots of highlights from current and previous research on food assistance and other topics. Each provides a graph or map with accompanying text.

Sometimes called the “most important meal of the day” for school-aged children, breakfast is available at nearly 90,000 schools across the country courtesy of USDA’s School Breakfast Program. On an average school day in fiscal 2014, some 13.5 million students participated. The Economic Research Service (ERS) illustrates the growth of the program in a new entry in its popular daily “Charts of Note” series. As the chart indicates, participation has more than doubled since 1996.

The School Breakfast Program, permanently authorized in 1975, is newer than the arguably-more-renowned National School Lunch Program, established nearly three decades earlier in 1946. The statistics tell an interesting story. Throughout the history of the School Breakfast Program, the number of participating children was considerably smaller than in the National School Lunch Program and is still less than half. Nevertheless, as the breakfast program funding increased—and grants to schools to help start up the program became more available—the number of schools participating in the breakfast program has steadily grown, making it available to more students. Read more »

USDA Participated in a “First of Its Kind” Camp for DC-Area Teens Focused Specifically on Open Data and Agriculture

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds.

Summer has arrived and young people all over the country are enjoying their time spent in summer camps. And while many camps involve athletics or camping out, others are meant to keep kids’ brains moving.  Today’s camps are anything but boring. Science Technology Engineering, Agriculture and Math (STEAM) camps can be exciting.

In an era increasingly defined by the challenge of using an unprecedented flow of information to solve problems and govern better, USDA provides national leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition and related issues. To support USDA’s mission, the GovLab Academy designed and executed a dual pilot of a two-week open data summer program, in July 2015, for Washington, DC-area teenagers. The camp’s goal was to help the leaders of tomorrow learn more about data, the tools of data science, and the ways they might be leveraged to improve innovation and security in the nation’s food supply. The camp also provided an opportunity for USDA employees to support the goal of strengthening STEAM education in this country by piloting an initiative that can be scaled and replicated across agencies and across levels of government. Read more »

USDA Introduces New Food Safety Practices Survey for Producers, Processors

A farmworker rinsing just-picked yellow squash in a processing tub

A farmworker rinses just-picked yellow squash in a processing tub. USDA photo by Lance Cheung. Public Domain.

As the mom of a young boy, I am eager to learn more about the activities of growers and processors who supply my family and millions of others with our fruits and vegetables. In addition to being a mom, however, I am an agricultural statistician. Providing official statistics about agriculture gives me an opportunity to share knowledge about various aspects of the American food system, including food safety measures taken by fruit and vegetable operations across the United States.

To bring that crucial information into the spotlight, USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) joined efforts and created a series of surveys, which I have the honor of administrating. The surveys focus on food safety practices used in fruit and vegetable production and processing. The data obtained may inform our understanding of how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may impact operators. Read more »

Farmers Markets: Important Sales Outlets for Organic Farmers

Organic Vegetables sign above vegetables and flowers

If a farmer or vendor at a farmers market uses the word “organic” to describe their products or practices, they must comply with the USDA organic standards and regulations. The organic label indicates that the product has been produced through approved methods that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

Across the nation, farmers markets continue to be great places for communities to gather, shop for fresh, healthy food, and get to know local farmers and ranchers.  Farmers markets are also important outlets for the sale of organic agricultural products. 

In fact, more than 40 percent of organic operations report direct sales to consumers.  As consumer demand for organic and local food increases, farmers markets offer important opportunities for organic producers to enter new markets and grow their businesses. Read more »

Moving Back to Rural America: Why Some Return Home and What Difference It Makes

People eating together

A recent Economic Research Service report explores reasons for returning to live in remote rural areas and the impacts return migrants make on their home communities. Photo by John Cromartie.

Population loss persists in rural America, especially in more remote areas with limited scenic amenities. Communities in these areas are attuned to the annual out-migration of their “best and brightest” high school graduates, typically a third or more of each class.

But stemming rural population loss–and spurring economic development–may depend less on retaining young adults after high school and more on attracting former residents some years later. Researchers at the University of Montana and USDA’s Economic Research Service visited 21 rural communities during 2008 and 2009 and conducted 300 interviews at high school reunions. The aim was to better understand what motivates return migration and the barriers to such moves. Reunions allowed for simultaneous interviews with both return migrants and nonreturn migrants. Read more »

Comparing the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay Provides Lessons for More Cost-Effective Policies

Ducks on a lake with sunset

USDA's Economic Research Service, and other researchers, analyzed the similarities and differences of the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea to help preserve the water quality of each.

Situated on two different continents and separated by thousands of miles, the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States and the Baltic Sea in northern Europe face remarkably similar problems. Both are relatively shallow basins of brackish water. Both marine areas suffer from eutrophication–pollution caused by introduction of chemical nutrients. For both water bodies, agriculture is the single most important source of those nutrients, and governments have implemented policies to reduce nutrient loads and improve marine ecosystems.

Researchers at the Natural Resources Institute Finland, USDA’s Economic Research Service, and the University of Helsinki have analyzed the similarities and differences between the institutional settings and protection policies of the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea. The aim was to identify avenues for reducing the cost of meeting water quality objectives. The very different political and institutional histories of the jurisdictions within the respective watersheds provide both contrasts and similarities. The six U.S. States in the Chesapeake watershed have a common political history and operate under Federal environmental law. The Baltic watershed is made up of 14 nations whose intergovernmental relations are strongly influenced by Cold War legacies. Yet current policies in both watersheds rely heavily on voluntary approaches to control agricultural runoff. Read more »