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Posts tagged: Food

Public Feedback and Comments Welcome on the New Advisory Committee Report on Dietary Guidance

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move Blog

By Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary

I’ve just received an important report about diet and health, and wanted to share with you some of what it says. The Advisory Report is from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and it is directed to me and to Secretary Sebelius at Health and Human Services. We will be using this report as the basis for finalizing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of the year. This report is a summary of the absolute best and most up-to-date science available, written by a group of 13 prominent independent experts in nutrition and health.

Their guidance is important because their recommendations provide the basis for important policy decisions related to the Food Pyramid, school meals, the WIC program, and other nutrition programs that USDA manages. The report highlights four major action steps for Americans to improve their diet and health:

The first is to reduce overweight and obesity by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity. The committee said that the obesity epidemic is the single greatest threat to public health in this century.

The second step is to eat more vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, eat more seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.

The third step is to cut out most added sugars and solid fats. Foods with added sugars and solid fats have unneeded calories and few, if any, nutrients. Also, to reduce sodium and eat fewer refined grains, especially desserts.

The final step is to “Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” This means to get up and move more—lots more! It is important for overall health and it helps burn calories to keep weight in balance.

How to put all of this advice together? The Committee identified several ways to build a total diet that meets nutrient needs, but stays within a person’s “calorie budget.”

The Advisory Committee was very concerned about the health of children—as we are at USDA. Obesity in children has tripled in the past 30 years, and we need to tackle that problem.

Between now and July 15, the public will have an opportunity to read and comment on the Advisory Report. You can find the report online. In early July we’ll also be holding a meeting here in Washington where the public can come provide oral testimony on the Advisory Report. We look forward to receiving and reviewing your comments. After evaluating your feedback, USDA and HHS will work together to develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we expect to release at the end of the year.

The Juice on Summer Peaches and Plums

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife CommunicationsA fresh, juicy peach makes a good addition to a summer lunch bag or picnic. Warm or chilled, you know you have a good one when you have to chase a stream of peach juice with a napkin.

So my recent visit with food chemist Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and peach breeder Dr. David Byrne was bound to conjure notions of hand-cranked peach ice cream or fresh slices topped with heavy cream.

Turns out, the Texas AgriLife Research scientists have an even better use: to cure breast cancer, even the most aggressive kind, without hurting healthy cells. That’s what they’ve done in the lab with two phenolic compounds in stone fruits.

What’s “phenolic,” you ask? The phenols are organic compounds that may affect traits such as aroma, taste or color.  The two in this case are chlorogenic and neochlorogenic

Many want to know where to get these compounds, if one can cook the peach or eat it raw, and whether these substances might work on other cancers. None of that is known yet – research like this is often a very long process to make sure it’s safe; so far no human clinical trials have been done…

But what this Texas duo has found is deliciously promising: to kill cancer cells and not healthy cells would make chemotherapy much more tolerable.

Their search began with the discovery that antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums equal or surpass so-called super fruits like blueberries. That called for a check against cancer.

“We chose breast cancer because it’s one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern,” Cisneros-Zevallos said.

The National Cancer Institute counted 194,000 new cases and 40,610 deaths from breast cancer in 2009. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of the cancer deaths of women globally.

Byrne plans to see how researchers who breed peach and plum varieties can make sure these compounds are bred into new fruit varieties Cisneros-Zevallos will continue testing these compounds in different types of cancer.

The work was supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.

Breast cancer cells -- even the most aggressive type -- died after treatments with peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.
Breast cancer cells — even the most aggressive type — died after treatments with
peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.

SNAP Crucial to Ending Hunger in America!

By Lisa Pino, Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

As Deputy Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), I’ve talked to many communities around the country about what more USDA can do to help people fight hunger and have greater access to healthy food. Although it’s been a year since I joined FNS, I remain humbled by the privilege of serving in a role where all of my time is spent helping others through the vehicle of SNAP. SNAP is truly a critical safety net to those in need, and it is by far our nation’s largest anti-hunger program as more than 40 million people a month receive SNAP assistance. Nevertheless, there is always more work to do as we are still not reaching millions of eligible people who could be served.

For this reason, our Southeast Regional Office (SERO) and I conducted a community round table in Miami, Florida to discuss with local leaders how to get more eligible people to participate on SNAP. Although SNAP is at an historic high as the economy continues to recover, too many SNAP eligible people are not on the program despite the benefit. The purpose of the community round table is to learn what barriers prevent their participation, and to identify ideas on how to open up access and improve participation to FNS programs especially among seniors, the working poor, and eligible Hispanics and immigrants. With my partners at the USDA Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, FNS regions like SERO have been doing tremendous work in coordinating community round tables in NJ, AZ, FL, and later this summer in CA and IL.

In Miami, our community round table was held at the Human Services Coalition where over 50 people, ranging from county partners, consulates, community organizations, and faith based organizations joined us. Earlier that morning I had also addressed a Florida ACCESS Community Partner Summit in Boca Raton attended by over 170 organizations. Community partners are critical in our mission to reach those in need and now act as that catalyst to help bridge the non-participating SNAP gap.

The next morning a big surprise occurred when I appeared on national television to talk about SNAP. Despierta America on Univision is the Spanish-language equivalent of Good Morning America, and my four minute interview resulted in almost one thousand calls to our bilingual SNAP call center alone. Later that morning I had the most fun visiting the Little Havana Activity and Nutrition Center, which provides seniors with every kind of help that you can imagine, from SNAP assistance to nutrition counseling to CACFP. As incredible as the Little Havana Center is though, everyone there works hard to have fun, which is so important as too many seniors live in isolation. For this reason, the Center includes daily performances from a retired professional pianist, popular exercise classes, an entire room dedicate to domino playing, and morning salsa. No, not as in the chips and dip kind, but live salsa music. So of course I had to join them on the dance floor, which they do every day as early as 9:00 AM!

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino is interviewed on Univision’s national morning show, Despierta America.  (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino is interviewed on Univision’s national morning show, Despierta America.
(USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino talks with senior citizens as they play Cuban dominos at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino talks with senior citizens as they play Cuban dominos at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami. (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino takes a break to dance with a senior citizen at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino takes a break to dance with a senior citizen at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino (center),  USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Acting Deputy Director Julie Curti (left), and SERO Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (right), meet with local government leaders, hunger advocates, faith-based groups and community partners, June 3, during a roundtable in Miami.
FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino (center),  USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Acting Deputy Director Julie Curti (left), and SERO Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (right), meet with local government leaders, hunger advocates, faith-based groups and community partners, June 3, during a roundtable in Miami.

A Ray of Sun for Peanut Allergy Sufferers

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

By Tara T. Weaver-Missick, Chief, Information Products and Services Branch, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that more than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both.  Those allergic have symptoms ranging from a mild case of hives to severe anaphylactic shock.

USDA researchers at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La., in collaboration with Red River Commodities, a major sunflower seed producer based in Fargo, ND, developed a process for making a sunflower butter product that resembles the flavor, texture and appearance of commercially available peanut butter – without the allergic reaction.

Red River Commodities came to USDA-ARS scientists for their processing expertise. The scientists were able to solve a major obstacle in processing the product after discovering that improper roasting results in poor texture, flavor and appearance.

Red River Commodities created SunGold Foods, Inc., a company dedicated to commercializing the sunflower product SunButter®.  As a result, 25 new jobs were created in rural America.

The product is now available in a variety of flavors (creamy, organic unsweetened, natural, natural crunch and natural omega-3) and sizes, including new “go packs” designed for school lunches and on-the-go snacking. The product is being sold to some of the largest U.S. food companies and retailers, such as Kroger, SuperValu, Walmart, Target and Whole Foods, and recently through the QVC network. It can also be purchased on line at http://www.sunbutter.com.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, zinc and iron. SunButter® is currently being used in a variety of foods as an added ingredient, including energy bars and a no-peanut peanut sauce.  SunButter® is an entitlement item and is thus part of the food commodities list for the USDA National School Lunch Program.  This technology will increase the value of U.S. sunflower seeds, boosting profitability for U.S. sunflower farmers.

Sunbutter, developed by USDA scientists from sunflower, resembles the flavor, texture and appearance of commercially available peanut butter.
Sunbutter, developed by USDA scientists from sunflower, resembles the flavor, texture
and appearance of commercially available peanut butter.

[Mention of trade names or commercial products in this report is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.]

Demand Rising for Agricultural College Graduates

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

By Greg Smith, National Program Leader, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

In what is sure to be good news for college students worried about finding a job after graduation in today’s economic climate, employment opportunities for U.S. college graduates with expertise in the food, agricultural, and natural resources and related science sectors are expected to remain strong during the next five years. This news comes from the recently released report, Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in the U.S. Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources System, the seventh 5-year employment opportunities projections study initiated by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

My colleagues and I at NIFA worked with Purdue University to produce this report, which covers the years 2010 through 2015.  We are expecting to see a greater need for professionals in agriculture and food systems, renewable energy and the environment as there will be an estimated 54,000 job openings annually. In fact, compared to 2005-2010, the workforce will demand 5 percent more graduates in 2010-2015. More than enough graduates will likely be available during the next couple of years in some occupations, but we foresee a shortfall of new graduates with preparation in priority business and science specialties in the latter half of the period.

Four major factors will shape the market for graduates in the next five years: macroeconomic conditions and retirements; consumer preferences for nutritious and safe foods; food, energy and environment public policy choices; and global market shifts in population, income, food and energy.

In the report, we identified the strengths graduates will need to compete for jobs in the areas of management and business; science and engineering; agricultural and forestry production; and education, communication and government services. The strongest demand is anticipated for graduates with college degrees and related work experience in business and management.

The projected growth in these occupations will be welcomed as the United States addresses the growing challenges related to food safety and security, climate change, and sustainable energy. We will need the talents, skills and knowledge of these professionals to help us solve these pressing issues and secure our future.

College graduates, such as these Rutgers University soil science students, can expect to see an increase in the number of job opportunities available in the next five years.
College graduates, such as these Rutgers University soil science students, can expect to see an increase in the number of job opportunities available in the next five years.

Cowbell Rings In the Start of the 2010 USDA Farmers Market Season

By Peter Rhee, Creative Media Director for USDA’s Office of Communications

With the first day of summer just around the corner, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan rang the ceremonial cowbell today, signaling the beginning of the 2010 USDA Summer Farmers Market season. With extra help from the hot sun and heat rising off the pavement, the air carried with it smells of fresh produce, fragrant soaps and flowers, and piping hot kettle corn.

Local vendors from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were on hand, selling their fruits, vegetables, herbs, bakery products, and other goods like coffee and honey.

Another aroma wafting through the air was the scent of grilled burgers and strawberry shortcakes, prepared fresh on the spot by Eric Ziebold, Executive Chef of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel’s prized restaurant, CityZen.

Chef Ziebold and his team, with some help from Deputy Secretary Merrigan, transformed flour, butter, and strawberries, into delicious desserts worth fighting the large crowd over.  The cooking demonstration was a highlight of the USDA Farmers Market kick-off celebrations, and drew a large crowd of hungry onlookers.

Farmers markets are important nationwide outlets for agricultural producers to offer consumers affordable, convenient, and healthy local foods and goods.  USDA’s Summer Farmers Market has been a DC favorite for the past 15 years and offers local vendors the access to expand their outreach efforts to the local community.

Come get your fill every Friday, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the corner of 12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W. through October, 2010.  For more information on Farmers Markets, where to find one, how to become a vendor, or registering your own Farmers Market, click here.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan make remarks, then rings the bell opening the 2010 Farmers Market at the U.S, Department of Agriculture in Washington, D. C., on Friday, June 4, 2010.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan make remarks, then rings the bell opening the 2010 Farmers Market at the U.S, Department of Agriculture in Washington, D. C., on Friday, June 4, 2010.

USDA Deputy Secretary assists Chef Eric Ziebold with a cooking demonstration at the kick-off of the USDA Summer Farmers Market.

USDA Deputy Secretary assists Chef Eric Ziebold with a cooking demonstration at the kick-off of the USDA Summer Farmers Market.