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Posts tagged: local foods

Growing Your Farm to School Program Has Never Been Easier

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

Healthy habits are taking root in our nation’s schools.  Thanks to an important commitment made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, more of our nation’s kids are being exposed to lessons about healthy eating and learning where their food comes from.  Established as part of that legislation, USDA’s Farm to School Program plays a vital role in improving health outcomes for our schoolchildren.

This October, during National Farm to School Month, it’s important to acknowledge farm to school programs’ contributions to fostering a healthier next generation.  These programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and communities to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice for America’s children. Read more »

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »

Reap What You Sow: Choctaw Children Learn about Gardening and Cooking

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

Nutrition Educator Liz Easterling of the Mississippi State Extension Service leads a cooking demonstration of "farmers market salsa."

“How many of you like vegetables?”  The question posed to a gathering of Choctaw children in a garden in rural Mississippi elicits skeptical responses.  But upon sampling the fresh produce harvested with their own hands, however, the children’s stereotypes of disgust turn to surprises of delight.  A young boy taking a giant bite out of a juicy tomato could be the poster child for the vibrant red fruit.  A pair of sisters declares cucumbers as their favorite.  The newly adventurous children are even willing to taste raw eggplant…Now that’s impressive.

Through a summer program made possible by a Food Distribution Program Nutrition Education (FDPNE) Grant from the Food and Nutrition Service, 150 children from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians were able to get up close and personal with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Twice a week, children ages 6-18 from the Boys and Girls Club and the Tribal Youth Court participated in the lifecycle of planting, picking, and preparing produce.  The week my colleagues and I visited the Choctaw Indian Reservation, the children scattered seed for iron clay peas, witnessed the hustle and bustle of a farmers market, and learned how to dice vegetables for a salsa recipe. Read more »

Thousands of Reasons to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market.  Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market. Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

The 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week is off to a great start!

Farmers markets connect and unite people living in urban and rural environments, provide access to fresh, healthy and delicious foods, and—best of all—put a face to the farmers and ranchers who produce their wonderful wares. We, in turn, can support farmers and local communities with our purchases. Read more »

In Colorado, Partnerships Bloom in Support of Regional Food Systems

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need.  One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF).  SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.

Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically.  The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference. Read more »