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Posts tagged: Grants

With USDA Housing Programs, 3.4 Million Rural Homebuyers Own Their Future

The Riggio family was able to purchase their home in Newville, Pennsylvania, with a loan from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Loan Program.

The Riggio family was able to purchase their home in Newville, Pennsylvania, with a loan from USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Loan Program.

As we celebrate National Homeownership Month this June, I am reminded how USDA delivers positive outcomes ‘Every Day, Every Way’ through the comprehensive programs and services that touch the lives of every American. While many people think of USDA in terms of food, farms and forestry, nearly 3.4 million families over the past 65 years have found the affordable financing they needed to become homeowners through USDA Rural Development.

In 2013 alone, more than 170,000 rural residents became homeowners with the help of Rural Development’s direct loans, guaranteed loans, grants and technical assistance. In both people and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year on record in the history of USDA’s single-family housing programs. Read more »

California Food for California Kids, Especially on Thursdays

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

California school food service directors cook and then sample new recipes that incorporate California products. (Photo courtesy of Center for Ecoliteracy)

I collect aprons like other people collect coins. There are dozens hanging in my kitchen, so many I suspect several have never actually been used. So it was with some self-consciousness that I accepted yet another apron last fall from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The Center was handing out hundreds of aprons to California school food service directors along with recipes for healthy school meals. At the Palm Springs Convention Center, tables were lined with ingredients, tools of the trade such as mixing bowls and measuring cups, and two burner stoves. Our task was to locate our group and get cooking; we’d be making lunch not for hungry children but for hungry conference attendees at the California Food for California Kids conference. Read more »

Opportunity is Brewing with USDA Grant Program

 

Brewing tanks from a craft brewery.  Massachusetts used a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant to help local farmers tap into the $14.3 billion craft brewing industry.   Photo courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti.

Brewing tanks from a craft brewery. Massachusetts used a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant to help local farmers tap into the $14.3 billion craft brewing industry. Photo courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti.

Over the years, the way we look at food in America has changed and evolved. As people explore new tastes, adjust their diets and become more familiar with new ingredients, it is up to farmers and ranchers to stay innovative and responsive to new demands. Through my role at USDA I often visit with farmers and ranchers about what it takes to grow their businesses, to remain competitive in a global market, and how USDA is an important partner to help meet these challenges.

The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), administered by USDAs Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed to support research projects that improve the marketing, transportation and distribution of U.S. agricultural products. FSMIP is a collaboration between Federal and State governments that puts matching funds from each towards projects that bring new opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Read more »

Farm to School Grants Offer New Opportunities to Serve Healthy Local Foods in School Meals

On March 7, 2014, students at J.C. Nalle Elementary School sampled three different kinds of spinach. After the taste test, they cast their vote to decide which type they like best. The winner? Spinach salad! (Photo courtesy of D.C. Central Kitchen)

On March 7, 2014, students at J.C. Nalle Elementary School sampled three different kinds of spinach. After the taste test, they cast their vote to decide which type they like best. The winner? Spinach salad! (Photo courtesy of D.C. Central Kitchen)

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to hang out with a group of cool elementary school students.  Which is why I was so excited for the chance to spend a few hours at J.C. Nalle Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C. You see, it was “Fresh Feature Friday” and D.C. Central Kitchen was coordinating a taste test to see which type of spinach the students like best. “Fresh Feature Friday” is their way of getting kids to try healthy new foods while improving student nutrition and decreasing school food waste.

D.C. Central kitchen manages the school meals program at J.C. Nalle and has been involved with serving healthy school meals for years. In fact, in 2013, the USDA Farm to School Program awarded funds to D.C. Central Kitchen to develop a year round farm to school program. The funds helped purchase school kitchen equipment to process and serve local foods, train staff to prepare school meals using local foods, and develop key partnerships with D.C. Public Schools, the D.C. Farm to School Network, and several regional farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Read more »

Helping Schools Build Better Cafeterias

Food service professionals from Arlington Public Schools discuss the day’s lunch service of Baja Fish Taco Wraps, Turkey Hot Dogs, Cherry Tomatoes w/dip, Baked Beans and Fresh Fruit for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The National School Lunch Program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Food service professionals from Arlington Public Schools discuss the day’s lunch service of Baja Fish Taco Wraps, Turkey Hot Dogs, Cherry Tomatoes w/dip, Baked Beans and Fresh Fruit for Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The National School Lunch Program operates in public, nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions, providing nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

As a former school nutrition director, I am amazed when I visit schools around the country and repeatedly witness students clamoring for items like baked kale chips—who would have ever thought that was possible?  Truly, schools have done an absolutely tremendous job of implementing the new meal standards resulting from the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. I am so proud of all that our nation’s school nutrition professionals have done to provide healthier, tasty meals to the millions of children who eat breakfast, lunch and snacks at school each day.

While schools have made—and continue to make—great strides across the whole realm of school nutrition, they are still facing challenges in meeting their goals.  In particular, many schools across the country do not have appropriate or adequate kitchen equipment.  The need for updated equipment is well-documented, most recently by a new Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project report entitled, “Serving Healthy Meals:  U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment,” and ranges from cutting boards to refrigerator space.  While some schools still need a significant investment in updated and upgraded equipment, many of the needs are simple and could cost as little as $32 to remedy! Read more »

Hooked on Aquaponics

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system.  For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system. For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

If you’re wondering what aquaponics is, you’re not alone.  Tracing its roots back to the Aztecs and rice cultivation in South China, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic system.  Basically, the plants keep the water clean for the fish to grow, and the fish fertilize the plants. Both help the other to survive and thrive.

A wide variety of foods—lettuce, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes, for example—all flourish through aquaponics farming. Read more »