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Posts tagged: food access

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division (FSCSD) within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing sets standards and provides testing and oversight for meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood purchased for the National School Lunch Program.

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. Read more »

Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »

Working Together to Bring Healthy Foods to Communities in Need

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council Blog:

Recently, representatives from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the US Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury joined representatives from various community projects from around the country to discuss how to increase healthy food access to communities in need.  The event included representatives from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Food Research and Action Center, Policy Link, and the Fair Food Network.

Participants shared their stories of success, and what we can do to encourage more healthy foods in these communities.  For example: Read more »

Expanding SNAP Farmers Market Access through Innovative Partnerships

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

America’s farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, and at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we’ve made it a priority to expand healthy food access through farmers’ markets to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a win-win situation because, for farmers markets, the ability to accept SNAP benefits is a great way to build their customer base, which helps generate more sales and nourish the economy in our rural communities.

As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I place a high value on partnerships because, working together, we can achieve more toward shared goals than by working alone. The USDA recently contracted with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), in an effort to enhance the participation of farmers and farmers markets in SNAP.  And out of that innovative partnership, I am excited to announce MarketLink, a new way for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers to get authorized as SNAP vendors and get the equipment they need to accept SNAP benefits. Read more »

Dive Deeper Into USDA Data with New APIs

Data consumers can now more easily leverage several of the most popular offerings from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)!

To meet the needs of a growing community of data users, including application developers and researchers, ERS has just released seven new APIs (Application Programming Interface), enriched with shared services provided by other Federal agencies.  The APIs offer dynamic access to ERS’s atlases, traditional data sets, and indicators in machine-readable formats.  ERS has developed rigorous standards for data products; users will note the extensive metadata and full documentation and transparency provided for each of the data sets via APIs.

Experienced users may want to dive into the thorough documentation available on ERS’s Developer page; while those seeking a simpler path can leverage pre-built widgets and starter-code snippets available in jQuery, Python, and Ruby.  The geospatial APIs provide access to map layers via ESRI (or other mapping services, such as Mapbox and Google Maps).  The newly released APIs supplement the following data sets: Read more »

Food Hubs – Building Businesses and Sustaining Communities

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

Food is a great equalizer.  Whether sharing it with loved ones around our holiday table or worrying about how we’re going to fit lunch in to our busy work days–food is something we all have in common.  But we don’t always think about the path it takes to get to our plates or even the store shelves.  And while there are many different ways it gets to us, we’re seeing food hubs play an increasingly important role for everyone along the way–farmer to corner store, chef to school lunch.

Food hubs are innovative business models emerging more and more across the country. They bring farmers and suppliers together, with 81 percent of food hubs focusing on increasing opportunities for local farms and allowing smaller producers to pool their products and fulfill larger contracts. Ninety-one percent of food hubs are near cities, connecting rural farmers to larger suburban and urban communities.  Oftentimes, farmers who work with food hubs offer a wider variety of products and are able to continue selling their goods later into the growing season.  That translated into an average of over $3.7 million in sales in the last year.  And USDA’s efforts have helped expand the number of regional food hubs operating around the country.  There are over 230, a 65 percent increase since 2009. Read more »