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Posts tagged: Food

“The Big Garden” Spreads Like Wildflower

By USDA Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Inner city Omaha is an economically distressed area, especially among the predominantly African-American and senior populations. Poverty rates and obesity among young people are high and access to healthy, affordable food is low, especially for those who need it most.

Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, Executive Director of United Methodist Ministries for the Missouri River District, began “The Big Garden” project in 2005, aided by a grant from the USDA Community Food Projects.  Five gardens were established in 2006 and were met with a resoundingly enthusiastic response.  Just three years later, The Big Garden network had grown to 22 gardens through collaboration with area churches and a variety of community organizations. Residents have their choice of simply donating time to the gardens or taking responsibility for cultivating and caring for a plot of their own and then harvesting and enjoying the results. As part of the initial design of the program, a portion of the fresh produce is donated to seniors in the neighborhood.

Through a cooperative program with a local nursing association, cooking classes are taught as part of the area’s after school programs. Many of the young people participating have never eaten fresh fruits and vegetables. With the benefit of a grant from the Omaha Public Power Department, the project has planted a number of fruit and nut trees. According to Project Manager Jessica Mews, the young people working in the gardens love the fresh produce as well as many of the products generated from the gardens. Kale chips are a particular favorite and, according to Mews, the kids can’t get enough of them.

The Big Garden is now on to the next phase, a garden in rural Nebraska — “The Big Rural Garden Project of Southeast Nebraska.” An acre of land in Auburn, a small rural community nearby, was donated and the local Methodist Church is managing the program. They are also collaborating with the local United Way Fund using a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight obesity. In 2008, the Sierra Club recognized the Big Garden as one of 50 exceptional faith-based environmental initiatives in the U.S.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

 

Indiana Students Show USDA How to Eat Healthy and Be Active in School

By Susie Stanfield, Fishers Elementary Physical Education Teacher, Fishers, IN (near Indianapolis)

We were really excited when USDA Food and Nutrition Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe visited our school on Friday, May 21st. Students from Mrs. Trees’ 3rd grade class showed Ms. Rowe how fun it is to exercise in school by participating in a cardio/station activity focused on the “Indy 500 Race.” After class, everyone went to the cafeteria for lunch prepared by Tracy Huser, our cafeteria manager, and her staff. Ms. Rowe held a roundtable with parents, teachers, students, and our district administrators to discuss nutrition and school lunch options. We’re all hoping these ideas will help develop healthy eating habits for years to come and assist the next generation in fighting obesity and health problems.

Third graders in Fishers Elementary gym class.
Third graders in Fishers Elementary gym class.

Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe joins the Fishers Elementary School lunch line.
Deputy Administrator Audrey Rowe joins the Fishers Elementary School lunch line.

Deputy Adminstrator Audrey Rowe enjoys lunch with third graders at Fishers Elementary School.
Deputy Adminstrator Audrey Rowe enjoys lunch with third graders at Fishers Elementary School.

Getting Feedback, Building Friendships in Montana

Darlene Barnes, Regional Administrator for the FNS Mountain Plains Regional Office

Taking the time to meet the people who use FNS programs and services is the best way to understand what works.  It also helps build important relationships and gets the word out to those who most need FNS support.

FNS Administrator Julie Paradis spent the week of May 24 doing just that – on the move in Montana gathering great feedback about nutrition issues and programs across the state.  A CNR Roundtable at Lolo Elementary in Lolo, Montana brought more than 30 school lunch workers, administrators, interested parents and news media to discuss nutrition needs for Montana’s underserved children.

On the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, Montana, Paradis met with leadership of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and toured several Food Distribution Nutrition Education grant demonstration gardens designed to teach the roots of good food all the way through to learning delicious recipes for preparing home grown and commodity foods.

In Bozeman, Montana, Paradis presented a HealthierUS  Schools Gold Award to Morning Star Elementary for their excellent work in promoting exercise and healthy eating habits.

FNS Administrator Julie Paradis discusses FNS programs with Tonka Howard, host of Good Medicine, at the KSKC Public TV station on the Flathead Reservation.
FNS Administrator Julie Paradis discusses FNS programs with Tonka Howard, host of Good Medicine, at the KSKC Public TV station on the Flathead Reservation.

FNS Administrator Julie Paradis hits the track with a Lolo Elementary student as part of the school’s Mileage Club.
FNS Administrator Julie Paradis hits the track with a Lolo Elementary student as part of the school’s Mileage Club.

FNS Administrator Julie Paradis and Ron Rotzahn, Program Specialist, Helena, Montana Field Office, discuss food distribution challenges at the St. Ignatius Food Distribution center on the Flathead Reservation.
FNS Administrator Julie Paradis and Ron Rotzahn, Program Specialist, Helena, Montana Field Office, discuss food distribution challenges at the St. Ignatius Food Distribution center on the Flathead Reservation.

The Small Plant Help Desk, Accepting Calls!

Beth McKew, DVM, Staff Officer, State Outreach and Technical Assistance Staff, Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training, Food Safety and Inspection Service

If you don’t work at USDA, you may not have read the 2008 Farm Bill, which means you may not be aware of the many benefits that came out of that legislation.  One such provision directed USDA to coordinate technical assistance to small meat and poultry processors.  As a result, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an agency within USDA committed to working with business of all sizes in support of a safe and wholesome food supply, established the Small Plant Help Desk

Small and very small processors make up more than 90% of the nation’s 6,000 federally inspected meat and poultry establishments and all of the 1,900 state inspected plants.  These small, independent businesses are often the closest and most convenient way that a farmer or rancher can bring their cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, or goats to market, and they are a critical part of the infrastructure that comprises our nation’s local and regional food systems.

Behind the Help Desk FSIS’ Staff Officers – subject-matter experts with recent in-plant experience – can assess callers’ requests and provide information and guidance materials that best meet their needs. The Help Desk not only provides such callers with step-by-step instructions, but also provides resources to assist them in understanding food safety issues relevant to the products they are producing.

Lucia Huebner from the Traveling Butcher in Hopewell, New Jersey, called the Small Plant Help Desk multiple times in search of help in starting up a federally-inspected mobile slaughter unit. Huebner’s questions ranged from those about specific federal regulations, such as potable water testing, to more general questions, such as how to coordinate her slaughter schedule with the local District Office. A Help Desk Staff Officer was able to answer her questions, put her in touch with district staff in her area, as well as connect her with a network of other small processors who have also faced the challenge of starting up a mobile slaughter unit. Huebner is still in the process of applying for a Federal Grant of Inspection, and plans to call the Help Desk again as questions arise along the way. “The Help Desk has been a fantastic resource for me,” says Huebner. “What a great feeling to know that I have someone to call when I have questions about federal inspection.”

The Help Desk can be reached at 877-374-7435, or 877 FSIS HELP, or by emailing InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.

Federal Agencies and Tribes Gather In Nebraska to Talk Needs and Resources

Written by Vicki Schurman, USDA Rural Development, Nebraska

Ten USDA agencies and Nebraska’s four federally recognized Indian Tribes gathered earlier this month at what is believed to be the first ever Tribal Listening Session in Nebraska.  Seventy-two attendees participated in the Listening Session at the Life Long Learning Center at Northeast Community College in Norfolk that was spearheaded by the State Food and Agriculture Council. 

All of Nebraska’s headquartered Indian Tribes had both Tribal Council Leaders and Tribal Business Management representatives at the session.  Federally recognized Tribes in Nebraska are the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska, and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. 

The guest speaker was Rural Development’s South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks who spoke of her own experiences as a Native American and on utilizing USDA programs.  She emphasized the Obama Administration’s commitment to working with the Tribes.  Each USDA agency hosted booths for Tribal members to visit to learn more about what is available to assist them.   Breakout sessions included Land Use Management, Economic/Community Development, Health and Human Services and Housing.   All sessions were presented by USDA specialists.

A Tribal opening prayer and the Noon Prayer and Spirit Plate, customs of the Tribes, were shared with all.   Bison, a traditional food of the Tribes, was served at lunch.

Secretary Vilsack earlier today announced funding to assist Tribes in business development ventures.  To learn more click here.

Session attendees included Tribal leaders and members and USDA staff.

Session attendees included Tribal leaders and members and USDA staff. 

Deputy Under Secretary Thornton Travels to LA High School to Discuss School Nutrition

Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

As Deputy Under Secretary, having the opportunity to visit schools all over the country is one of the best parts of my job.  I have mostly been to elementary schools, where school meal participation is generally higher than middle or high schools.  Last week, however, I had the chance to visit Garfield High School of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second largest school district in the country.  More than 75% of Garfield High’s students participate in the National School Lunch Program; I witnessed more than 3,100 students get served in 40 minutes—talk about efficient!  The Home-Style Shepherd’s Pie with Grain Roll was a hit.

Dennis Barrett, Director of Food Services, has done an outstanding job improving the program since he first started in 2007, with the food getting good reviews from students who like the variety of choices and find the food “nutritious and tasty.”  For example, students can choose among Sweet Potato Sticks, Café LA Tossed Side Salad, Chilled Peaches, and Chilled Orange Juice as well as non-fat, low-fat, lactose-free, and flavored milk.  Given its high participation level, the high school might apply for the Gold or Gold of Distinction award in the USDA HealthierUS School Challenge, which encourages healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

I spoke with students and officials about the President’s priorities for improving school meals.  I also emphasized the importance of renewing the Child Nutrition Act and advocated for a strong reauthorization bill to reduce hunger, combat obesity, and improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children.  One of the students suggested a Grab N Go lunch because some of the students do not have enough time to eat since some of them need to go to the library or do homework.  That was a great suggestion.  Little did the student know, I just visited Bravo Medical Magnet School of the same school district and it had a Grab N Go lunch.  The school district will work with the school to see if this program can work at Garfield High, too.

On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.
On May 20, Garfield High School student leader shows Dr. Thornton the lunch process.

On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School.
On May 20, Dennis Barrett sits with Dr. Thornton at Garfield High School. 

On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.
On May 19, Bravo Medical Magnet School student shows Dr. Thornton his Tostada Fiesta Salad and blueberries.