Fresh tomatoes for sale at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farmers Market celebration of the 2014 National Farmers Market Week at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. USDA photo by Ed Ragland.
I’m really looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets play a key role in developing food systems that help local grow economies. They bring people together, create bridges between rural and urban communities and increase access to locally-grown fruits and vegetables, providing healthier options for consumers across the country.
When Hurricane Katrina struck over a decade ago, New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward notoriously faced some of the worst devastation in our nations’ history. The floodwaters have long since subsided, but residents in this community are still struggling to rebuild the lives they knew before the storm. Read more »
Dr. Joe Leonard speaks to the students. NRCS photo.
Tucked in the middle of a mixed commercial and residential area of New Orleans still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, is Carter G. Woodson Middle School − a state of the art public charter school known as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Central City Academy.
As I wandered through the garden taking pictures and preparing for guests to arrive for the Greenhouse Garden Club ribbon cutting ceremony, I was intrigued by the markers made by students identifying the plants in the beds and statements about working hard and respecting the garden.
“Hello miss! Our teacher sent us out here to keep you company,” said seventh-grader Keyira Powell. She was accompanied by another student, Clifton Desilva who mostly stood in silence while Keyira − clearly a school ambassador – eagerly began telling me about the gardening club. Read more »
Nathan Cann volunteers at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in exchange for a box of fresh produce valued at $25.00 in New Orleans, LA on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.
New Orleans is known for many special things, not the least of which is its food.
That’s why Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan chose the crescent city this week to release a new report on the importance of food hubs in America. The report finds that there is an increasing demand for fresh, local foods and the popularity of food hubs is growing quickly. In fact, there are well over 200 across the country now, including Hollygrove Farm and Market in downtown New Orleans. Read more »
Deputy Secretary Merrigan surveys produce being grown by urban farmers in New Orleans.
Earlier this week, I traveled to New Orleans with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to meet with the local farming and fishing community. What I saw at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation (MQVN) was inspirational. Read more »
Undersecretary Kevin Concannon meets with Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of nuns based in New Orleans.
When a newspaper reporter asked me recently, “What can I tell our readers about the USDA programs,” I told her: “Most of what USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service does is through others.”
As I travel throughout the country, I see how different organizations come together to carry out our mission of putting food on the table for those in need. In concert with FNS’ 15 nutrition assistance programs, hundreds of organizations are working hard every day to create the safety net against hunger that protects Americans. Without fanfare and with little public notice, coalitions of non-profits, religious organizations and groups of volunteers are often the first line of defense against hunger. Read more »
Last month I spoke to food bank leaders at the Feeding America Central Region conference, which was held in Baton Rouge, La., and hosted by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Attendees came from over 20 states to strategize about meeting the challenges of these tough economic times. Feeding America’s food banks help supply thousands of food pantries and emergency food sites across the U.S. and are among the many charitable organizations working hard to figure out ways to deal with decreased donations and a higher demand for food.
I told the group that it’s important that they continue to get the word out to food bank clients that USDA nutrition assistance is available to folks who meet the eligibility standards. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women Infants and Children program (WIC) still provide critical aid to individuals and families that may experience food insecurity. I also reminded them to encourage parents in their communities to enroll their children in school lunch and breakfast. School meals help ease the burden on families to provide three meals a day to the children in their households. Read more »