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Posts tagged: gardening

USDA Team Nutrition Grants Promote Healthier Meals for Our Nation’s Schoolchildren

Schools are successfully serving more nutritious meals to America’s students, and healthier meals mean healthier kids. USDA is constantly working to do everything we can to support school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of up to $5.5 million in Team Nutrition training grants for states for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms – an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria – as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions. To apply for the grants, state agencies should visit www.grants.gov.

Here are some examples of how Team Nutrition grants have helped schools in the past: Read more »

Tips for Starting an Organic Garden

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

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.

Even though there’s still snow on the ground over much of the country, it’s about time to start thinking about the logistics of planting your garden later this spring.  And while you’re thinking about it, why not consider going natural?

Whether you’re an avid gardener or just starting out, the idea of creating a garden using organic methods can seem overwhelming at first. But organic gardening is less daunting than you may think if you understand some basic principles; it’s about creating a more holistic, natural ecosystem and can be done right in your own backyard. Read more »

Green Thumbs near Green Bay: Menominee Tribe Cultivates Nutrition Education

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Participants in the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin’s monthly cooking class sample the new recipes they learned to prepare, cereal treats with wheat bran flakes and zippy zucchini salad. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Cooking knowledge, proper planning, and access to healthy foods are essential ingredients to healthy diets.  I witnessed this firsthand when I traveled to the food distribution center of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, one of the 20 Indian Tribal Organizations that received funding in 2014 from USDA’s Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) grants.  Their programs offer cooking classes, recipes, nutrition education and resources for Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) participants as well as manage a community garden program which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for tribal members.

Creativity and partnerships allow the Menominee’s innovative educational activities to serve as a shining example of best practices.  A monthly cooking class combines instruction about basic cooking and food safety with interactive games and hands-on recipe preparation.  The class is a joint venture among FDPIR, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Community Resources Center, and the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Read more »

Puerto Rico’s First Lady Promotes Community Gardens, Starting with Her Backyard

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.

Puerto Rico’s First Lady is a big fan of the home garden, and actually, the garden at the governor’s mansion, called La Fortaleza, is part of USDA’s national garden movement.

First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez’s garden was the first People’s Garden at a Puerto Rico state government facility and the third on the island.

The garden joins more than 2,000 across the nation as part of the People’s Garden Initiative, started in 2009 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »

At the Intersection of Agriculture and the U.S. Military

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the 19th season opening of the USDA Farmers Market.  Our celebration of U.S. military service members, past and present, and American agriculture brought together special guests, partners, farmers and the community.  USDA photo by Peter Wood.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the 19th season opening of the USDA Farmers Market. Our celebration of U.S. military service members, past and present, and American agriculture brought together special guests, partners, farmers and the community. USDA photo by Peter Wood.

Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members.  We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.

From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families.  Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes.  With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring. Read more »

It’s National Wildflower Week! Get a Little Wild with Flowers on National Forests and Grasslands

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Walking along the peaceful Hunter Creek Road in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, in the Hoosier National Forest, you catch a glimpse of beautiful periwinkle flowers swaying in the warm spring air. A short hike uphill and you are immersed in the full bloom of wild hyacinth, along with other delightful wildflowers such as twinleaf and trout lily.

While getting caught up in the beauty and serenity of this colorful scene, you may observe a white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox squirrel, red-shouldered hawk or scarlet tanager. This enchanted corner of the Hoosier National Forest is its only congressionally designated wilderness. It boasts plentiful spring flora thanks to its proximity to a geologic feature known as the Mount Carmel Fault. And, this is just one of 82 Wildflower Viewing Areas in the Forest Service’s Eastern Region

Read more »