Each year, USDA purchases more than 2 billion pounds of food worth nearly $2 billion from American farmers and distributes the food to schools, food banks, Indian Tribal Organizations, disaster feeding organizations, and other charitable institutions and feeding organizations.
March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.
Fish and fowl, sowing and reaping, nutrition and agriculture… certain words and concepts naturally go hand in hand, and March is a month to celebrate both the foundation and purpose of the American food system. With March designated as National Nutrition Month and March 15 as National Agriculture Day, the time is ripe to reflect on healthy eating goals and to express gratitude for the farmers, fishers, and ranchers who provide the foods to fuel our nation.
USDA’s Food Distribution Programs work at the intersection of nutrition and agriculture. Each year, USDA purchases more than 2 billion pounds of food worth nearly $2 billion from American farmers and distributes the food to schools, food banks, Indian Tribal Organizations, disaster feeding organizations, and other charitable institutions and feeding organizations. The programs benefit both ends of the food chain by supporting local agriculture and the economy while also providing a nutrition safety net for vulnerable Americans. Read more »
Ripe berries on the vine ready to be picked at Mayflower Cranberries in Plympton, Mass. Photo by Jeff LaFleur of Mayflower Cranberries used with permission.
Most have probably heard Wisconsin’s famous moniker “The America’s Dairyland.” This nickname is definitely befitting considering our long history with milk production. But, while our milk, cheeses, and other dairy products are available year-round, the fall season brings attention to a completely different commodity. I’m talking about cranberries.
Alongside pumpkins, apples, and pears, cranberries are a staple of American cuisine during the fall months. But did you know that most cranberries in the United States come from Wisconsin? Our growers produce 60 percent of the cranberries in the United States? Last year alone, more than 5 million barrels of cranberries came from Wisconsin. One barrel weighs 100 pounds, which means our growers produced more than 250,000 tons of this amazing fruit. Read more »
USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »
David Fairchild was instrumental in establishing gardens nationwide to screen plants from overseas with potential for improving U.S. diets, gardens, and landscapes. ARS photo by Keith Weller.
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.
Bountiful harvests don’t magically appear on store shelves and supermarkets. USDA scientists strive to make sure that the variety of meats, fruits, vegetables and grains we enjoy are hardy enough to withstand insects, diseases, droughts and other natural threats familiar to anyone with a garden or farm.
David Fairchild, a USDA scientist, was a key part of that effort. Fairchild collected plants from all over the world so they could be studied and bred. He organized the USDA’s Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction and served as its chairman for more than 20 years. He is credited with introducing about 30,000 plant species and variations into the United States, and he was instrumental in establishing gardens throughout the United States to screen plants with potential for improving our diets, gardens and landscapes. Read more »
When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns. USDA photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.
USDA’s Food Waste Challenge is underway and federal marketing orders for fruits and vegetables continue to help out in the food donation effort. Under these industry self-help programs that are overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), groups decide minimum quality standards that benefit the entire industry. When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns.
When this occurs, businesses have a couple of options: send the food to the processed market, donate the food to charities and food banks, or process the food into livestock feed. Nearly half of the active fruit and vegetable marketing orders also include comparable import regulations to ensure foreign products meet the same quality standards as those produced domestically. Read more »
A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants (Photo by Diane Ragone, Breadfruit Institute)
Do you grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard or community garden? Do some of them come from trees?
Breadfruit, or ‘ulu, is an easy-to-grow, productive, nutritious, and starchy staple crop grown in many Pacific Islands, including Hawaii. It can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried or pounded into poi. In the past, many people grew breadfruit at home and in community gardens. However, many breadfruit trees have been cut down, especially in urban areas. Products such as breadfruit can have a helpful impact on Pacific islands such as Hawaii, imports about 85 percent of its food. Read more »